Bored at Work? Good

By Jessica Stillman

Studies show that in moderate doses boredom actually has a big upside.

These days there are more options than ever to avoid ever feeling truly bored. Got five minutes to spare? Whip out your phone for some gaming or trawl through Twitter. Have a bit more time? Thanks to the wonders of tech you can download your favorite music or TV show in minutes and fill the gap.

At first blush that sounds like a great thing. Who likes being bored, after all? But according to psychologists, if you’re keeping yourself perpetually engaged, you may be missing out on the benefits of boredom–yup, you heard that right, boredom, it turns out, is actually good for us.

The Benefits of Boredom

How? Idle brains, scientists have found, aren’t just a source of pointless pain. Being bored actually signals to the mind that you’re in need of fresh ideas and spurs creative thinking.

Researchers recently confirmed the counter-intuitive creativity-boosting effects of boredom by subjecting one group of study participants to the mind-numbing task of copying out the telephone book for 15 minutes. After attaining a state of utter boredom in this manner, the study subjects were then given a standard test of creativity in which they needed to come up with as many uses as possible for a common household item (in this case a plastic cup). Their results were compared to those of a control group that hadn’t been pre-tormented with boredom. The telephone book copiers, it turns out, were more creative.

A follow-up study compared those who given passive but boring tasks (just reading the phone book, i.e. the rough equivalent of hearing someone drone on stultifyingly at a meeting) to those completing the original active but boring task of writing out telephone numbers. Boredom plus daydreaming while passively bored, the psychologists discovered, was an even greater productivity boost (may that be some comfort to you during your next interminable meeting).

PsyBlog points out that writers have long known about and exploited this reality, offering a quote from comedy writer Graham Linehan as an illustration: “I have to use all these programs that cut off the internet, force me to be bored, because being bored is an essential part of writing, and the internet has made it very hard to be bored. The creative process requires a period of boredom, of being stuck.”

The Takeaway for Bosses

The author of the telephone book study, Dr Sandi Mann, commented that “boredom at work has always been seen as something to be eliminated, but perhaps we should be embracing it in order to enhance our creativity.”

Bosses, she notes, who demand constant busyness may actually be inadvertently denting their team’s creativity. “Employers, who are under the misguided notion that boredom is a problem to be eliminated in the workplace through increased activities and tasks, should look to embrace it in order to enhance employee creativity,” she advises.

Are you going overboard with your efforts to eliminate boredom?

In The News…

HOA forces suburban farmer to give away hemp plants

A homeowner in Denver, Colo., has been forced to shut down his hemp-growing operation after the homeowners association at Todd Creek Farms found him to be in violation of several community rules. Jim Denny failed to notify the HOA of his landscaping changes and his plans to sell his product, which breaches the association’s ban on home businesses. Westword (Denver) (7/2) 

 

Veteran, HOA may go to court over flag in flower pot

The homeowners association of the Tides at Sweetwater in Jacksonville, Fla., is demanding a 73-year-old veteran remove a 17-inch-by-12-inch American flag planted in a flower pot on his front porch, but the resident says he has no plans of taking it down and may even take the issue to court for the second time. The association’s documents state that flags must be flown on brackets and hung, and flower pots must only hold plants. San Francisco Chronicle (free content)/Associated Press (7/3)

 

South Carolina homeowners want laws regulating HOAs

South Carolina is home to 6,400 HOAs, according to the Foundation for Community Association Research, and officials throughout the state say that letters, calls and emails from dissatisfied homeowners are a near constant. They don’t come in a flood, say people in state and local governments, but you can count on them every week or month or so.  The writers want to eliminate what they see as unresolved problems in their developments and to rein in what they feel are out-of-control HOA boards and declarants, as developers are known legally.  There ought to be laws to help them out, they say. The State (Columbia, S.C.)/The Sun (7/6) 

 

Condo insurance for owners

Condo insurance differs from renters’ insurance and homeowners’ insurance in the way it deals with responsibility for the building’s structure and certain interior components. Make sure that between the complex’s master policy and your unit-owner’s policy, you’re fully protected but not over-insured. Investopedia (7/3)

 

HOA life: Being labeled as a complainer

Clete Linke doesn’t mind at all that some of those in charge at Waterford Plantation label him a complainer. “I’m a complainer when I’m not treated fairly,” he said. A resident of the subdivision for about four years, Linke not only takes on issues for himself, but for other residents as well. He’s taken on a variety of issues in the past, ranging from the lack of circulating fountains in some of the development’s lakes to sidewalks that aren’t built across common property, to the legal authority of some who have been in charge The State (Columbia, S.C.)/The Sun (7/6) 

 

How Satisfied Are Homeowners?

survey pic

The Foundation for Community Association Research recently published a survey that explores community association resident satisfaction.  The survey, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, in March and April of 2014 showed that almost two-thirds community association residents rated their association experience as positive.  26 percent were neutral, and only 10 percent expressed some level of dissatisfaction. 

The homeowner survey also inquired about board member and community manager service, disagreement issues, assessments and more.  See what Tom A. Skiba, CAE, chief executive officer of the Foundation for Community Association Research, had to say about the survey here.  You can also download the free, compiled results here.

The Foundation for Community Association Research provides authoritative research and analysis on community association trends, issues and operations. Its mission is to inspire successful and sustainable communities. Visit www.cairf.org.

How to Win at Wokplace Conflict

by Jeffrey Pfeffer

No matter how sound or well-intentioned your ideas, there will always be people inside — and outside — your organization who are going to oppose you. Getting things done often means that you’re going to go head to head with people who have competing agendas. In my career studying organizational behavior, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing some incredibly effective conflict management techniques. I’ve distilled a few of them into some rules for dealing with organizational conflict:

1. Stay focused on the most essential objectives.

It’s easy to become aggravated by other people’s actions and forget what you were trying to achieve in the first place. Here we can learn a lesson from Rudy Crew, a former leader in the New York City and Miami-Dade County schools.

When Crew was verbally attacked by Representative Rafael Arza, a Florida legislator, who used one of the nastiest racial slurs to describe Crew, an African-American, Crew filed a complaint with the legislature but then essentially went on with his work. As he told me at the time, a significant fraction of the Miami schoolchildren were not reading at grade level. Responding to every nasty comment could become a full time job but, more importantly, would do nothing to improve the school district’s performance. Arza was eventually expelled from the legislature. Crew’s takeway? Figure out: “what does winning look like?” If the conflict were over and you found that you had won, what would that look like? Which leads to the second rule…

2. Don’t fight over things that don’t matter.

For a while, Dr. Laura Esserman, a breast cancer surgeon at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and a leader of fundamental change in breast cancer treatment and research, was sponsoring a digital mammography van to serve poor women in San Francisco. The sponsorship was taking a lot of time and effort — she’d had trouble raising money for the service after the Komen Foundation had reneged on a pledge of support. Her department chair was worried about the department’s budget and why a department of surgery was running a radiology service. The hospital CFO was not interested in funding a mammography service that would generate unreimbursed care while the university was raising debt to build a new campus. And Esserman herself did not (and does not) believe that mammography was the way forward for improving breast cancer outcomes. After figuring out that sponsoring the mamo-van was absorbing disproportionate effort and creating unnecessary conflict with important people inside UCSF, Esserman offloaded the van. It smoothed the relationship with her boss and allowed her to focus on higher-leverage activities.

3. Build an empathetic understanding of others’ points of view.

As the previous example illustrates, sometimes people fight over personalities, but often they have a reason for being in conflict. It helps to understand what others’ objectives and measures are, which requires looking at the world through their eyes. Don’t presume evil or malevolent intent. For example, an ongoing struggle in the software industry has centered around when to release a product. Engineers often want to delay a product release in the pursuit of perfection, because the final product speaks to the quality of their work. Sales executives, on the other hand, are rewarded for generating revenue. It’s therefore in their best interest to sell first and fix second. Each is pursuing reasonable interests consistent with their rewards and professional training — not intentionally trying to be difficult.

4. Adhere to the old adage: keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

The late President Lyndon Johnson had a difficult relationship with the always-dangerous (because he had secret files on everybody) FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover. When asked why he spent time talking to Hoover and massaging his ego, Johnson was quoted as saying: “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.” This is tough advice to follow, because people naturally like pleasant interactions and seek to avoid discomfort. Consequently, we tend to shun those with whom we’re having disagreements. Bad idea. You cannot know what others are thinking or doing if you don’t engage with them.

5. Use humor to defuse difficult situations.

When Ronald Reagan ran for president of the United States, he was (at the time) the oldest person to have ever been a candidate for that office. During the October 21, 1984 Kansas City debate with the democratic candidate, Walter Mondale, one of the questioners asked Reagan if he thought age would be an issue in the upcoming election. His reply? “I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

Let’s face it: you’re going to have conflict in the workplace. It’s unavoidable. But if you keep these simple — albeit difficult to act on – rules in mind, you’ll learn to navigate conflict more productively.

 

What to Do When You’re Overloaded

By Kevin Daum @Awesomeroar

Too much on your plate again? Sometimes it’s unavoidable. Here are some quick tips to help free you from the workload.

Trying to grow companies is hard work. Rarely are there enough resources and no matter how late or hard you work there is always more to be done. Big projects can often mask the load because they draw focus. But when you get over the hump on a major initiative you can find yourself with an overwhelming amount of work that got pushed aside. That’s when the workload can just feel debilitating.

No need to panic. You can dig yourself out of almost any hole if you keep your wits about you. If you clear away mounds of work in a short time, you’ll feel re-energized and ready to create new opportunities. You can systematically reduce your workload with a little thought and organization. Start with a positive attitude and make a list of everything on your plate. Then take a deep breath and use these tips to attack the mountain of work ahead.

1. Eliminate unimportant projects. Does everything on the list really need to be done? Often we have tasks on our list that are only nice to have, or perhaps are legacy tasks that are no longer important or applicable to our success path. Go through the list and rank items of critical importance from 1 to 5. Take all of the 5s off your list and focus on the 1s and 2s. You can always move an item back on the list when it becomes useful or crucial.

2. Minimize steps. Often people make tasks more complicated then they need to be. Most of the time this happens either because the task hasn’t been carefully planned or because the way it’s been done in the past hasn’t been reassessed and updated. Examine each task on the list as if it were brand new and write out a simple 5-step completion process for each one. Most likely you’ll simplify the process on several tasks and free up some of your time.

3. Move out deadlines. It may seem like everything needs to be done right now, and it probably does. But in truth, everything can’t happen simultaneously. Set your list on a timeline identifying requirements to get started, so you can see which tasks are inter-dependent and then determine how long they will actually take. Now you can prioritize and calendar each item. This process will help set priorities and eliminate inefficiencies and wait times.

4. Outsource some tasks. Part of what builds your overload is keeping everything on your plate when someone else could do much of it more effectively. Go through your list and mark the items that could actually be done in whole or in part by someone other than you. Whether you delegate to an employee, farm out to a firm, or bring in an independent expert, you are bound to free up time and mental space by being the supervisor rather than the doer. There may be some learning curve to get outsourcers up to speed, but once someone learns to handle the task, it should stay off your desk for good.

5. Involve the team. You don’t have to do everything alone. You hired employees and took on partners so your company could become more than the sum of the parts. Use the brains and hands of those around you to support the effort efficiently. Set up an efficacy meeting. Have people on the team use this article to get their own list trimmed and prioritized. Then you all can share your lists and spend a little time on how to get all the tasks done as a group. You’ll be able to reposition tasks to the most appropriate people, establish accountability and eliminate redundancy. The added emotional support from the team will make completing the tasks more fun as well.

6. Run a marathon. Going back and forth from task to task can make completion take twice as much time. The best and most efficient work happens with focused attention. Clear your desks for 48 hours. Move your meetings, and reduce your communication as if you were going on vacation. Now schedule as much of your list as possible for that 48-hour marathon. Put yourself in a comfortable work environment and attack all the tasks that require serious brainwork, writing, number-crunching, strategy or whatever demands deep thought.

7. Take a breather. Each of these tips should help lighten the load, but when all is said and done your list will still probably big and possibly insurmountable. Such is the reality of fast growth companies. There is always a new product to launch, a competitor to crush, and an investor to please. But you as a leader must be in control if you are going to succeed. So make sure that no matter how big and pressing your workload, you take the time to rest your body and your brain. That way you’ll be in your most productive and efficient mode so you can perform at your best. Most importantly you’ll eliminate careless mistakes that add more tasks to your already heavy workload.

CAI Honors CAMICB Board Members

Two current members of the CAMICB Board of Commissioners were honored at the recently completed Community Associations Institute (CAI) annual conference. CAMICB Board Chair Rob Felix, CMCA, LSM, PCAM, RS received the CAI Award of Excellence in Designations. Board member Jeevan J. D’Mello, CMCA, AMS, LSM, PCAM was honored with CAI’s President’s Award.

A national leader in the community association industry for more than 20 years, Rob Felix, with Innovia/CMC, has laid the foundation for countless managers on their journey toward earning CAI designations. He teaches and speaks extensively around the country for CAI and has been a lead CAI faculty member for many years, including service as chair of the Faculty Review Panel and the current faculty training leader. He chairs both the CAMICB Board of Commissioners and the CAMICB Exam Development Committee.

Jeevan D’Mello is senior director of Emaar Community Management LLC, AAMC, which is located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. D’Mello was among the first managers in the Middle East to earn CAI designations and helped introduce CAI’s professional development courses to community managers in the Middle East. D’Mello also was instrumental in establishing a CAI presence in Dubai. The President’s Award is given at the discretion of CAI’s sitting president to an individual who has displayed exemplary service and commitment to CAI and who has been instrumental helping the president achieve CAI’s goals. D’Mello was recognized by immediate past CAI President Dennis Abbott, CMCA, AMS, PCAM.

Manage Tough Personalities in the Workplace

BY Minda Zetlin@MindaZetlin

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Problem employees in your company? Here’s how to whip them into shape–and make them more productive.

Running a business would be easy if only you didn’t have to manage people. The bigger your company grows, the smaller the likelihood that everyone in it will be easy to supervise. As the boss you always (or almost always) have the option to terminate anyone who is truly a drag on your company. But good talent is hard to find, so before you go down that road, it’s worth the effort to try and make a difficult person work more effectively within your company.

When faced with a problem personality, most of us do one of two things: We either confront the person head-on, leading to escalating hostility, or else avoid dealing with him or her and leave the problem to worsen. Neither is an effective solution, and as your company’s leader, neither is an option.

There’s a better way, according to Judith Orloff, M.D., assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, and author of “The Ecstasy of Surrender.” Instead of being rigid and laying down the law, you can use a sort of communication aikido to channel troublesome employee’ own energies in ways that will benefit themselves, their co-workers, and your company.

“Let go of reactivity,” Orloff advises. “People typically react when their buttons get pushed. If that happens to you, take a break, breathe, and center yourself. Then respond calmly and firmly rather than getting caught up in their dances. As a role model for others, you have to be in a higher place.”

Here’s a look at five of the most challenging personalities Orloff has encountered, and how to manage them effectively:

1. Narcissists

Narcissists have an inflated sense of their own importance and crave constant attention and praise, Orloff explains. “They’re self-absorbed and lack the capacity for empathy,” she adds. “You have to realize that this person won’t care what other people are feeling, which is a huge drawback in the workplace.”

Telling someone how their behavior is making others feel, or working to the detriment of the company–an effective approach with many employees–won’t work at all when you’re dealing with a narcissist. Narcissists are also extremely sensitive to criticism of any kind and liable to react badly, she says. “If you want to keep them on and want them to be productive, you have to frame things in terms of how it might serve them,” Orloff says. “That’s the only thing they’ll respond to.”

What’s a good role for a narcissist? Interestingly, Orloff says, they will often do well in positions of power, because they take that power very seriously and value it highly, and often work very hard in those roles. “Narcissists are running the world,” she says.

2. Passive-Aggressive Types

“They will promise to help you with a project but then they don’t. Or they’ll show up 15 minutes late,” Orloff says. “Passive-aggressiveness is a form of anger, but not an outright form.” You may be tempted to try and get to the bottom of what’s making them angry and try to resolve the problem. Don’t go there, Orloff advises. “It’s a character disorder. You have to dig very deep,” she says.

Another thing to watch out for is your own reaction to passive-aggressive people, she says. “Passive-aggressive people will leave you dangling. They can make you feel you’re not worthwhile because they don’t show up for you in a consistent way. They can get to you without you knowing it.”

How do you deal with passive-aggressive employees? Unlike narcissists, they do have the capacity for empathy. They also want to advance in your workplace, and you can use both these traits to help motivate them. Mainly, Orloff says, you have to set very, very clear expectations. “The only way is to very clearly say what you need from them and when. ‘It’s very important that you show up on time for our meetings,’ for example.” Chances are they’ll try to slip through any loophole they can find, so you have to be very precise about what you want them to do.

Not surprisingly, Orloff recommends placing passive-aggressive employees in jobs where there are very specific guidelines and expectations laid out for them. In more open-ended roles, she says, “They’ll drive everyone crazy.”

3. Gossips

Every workplace will have a certain amount of gossiping, but if one of your employees enjoys reporting bad news about you, others in your company, or even the competition, that’s destructive behavior and you need to do something about it.

The first step toward dealing with a gossip is not to get sucked in yourself. Don’t participate in gossiping which can be hard to resist, depending on the subject of the conversation. Even more important, don’t give in to the natural human desire to know exactly what’s being said about you, or to try to please everyone so they’ll only have good things to say.

Beyond that, it’s a good idea to call the gossip on his or her behavior, and explain that it’s not helpful for your workplace. “Bringing their attention to it will curtail it a bit,” Orloff says. “It’s good to do because if you don’t, it will go unchecked.” Beyond that, she advises talking about gossip and its destructive effect to the company in general. “The workplace is a breeding ground for gossip,” she says. “If you address it honestly and explain why it’s not good for your company, you give employees permission to tell people that they don’t want to participate in gossip.”

On the plus side, gossips often have good people skills, Orloff says. “They like talking, so if you give them a positive place where they can talk, you can channel their abilities for the good,” she says. “Maybe sales is a good role.”

4. Anger Addicts

Some people deal with workplace tensions by accusing their co-workers of misdeeds, yelling at others, and generally giving their angry feelings free rein. These are some of the most challenging employees you’ll have to deal with.

Whatever you do, don’t let them get away with it. “This situation needs an intervention,” Orloff says. “That’s unacceptable behavior. They have to be given very strong limits and boundaries. It will destroy a workplace if people are having tantrums.”

As the boss, you’ll either have to take anger addicts aside, or get someone in Human Resources to do so. Either way, they need to hear that their expressions of anger are inappropriate. Offer them the opportunity to go for counseling. And face the fact that anger addicts may not have a future at your company since repeated rages can potentially drag your whole organization down.

5. Guilt Trippers

Guilt trippers lay it on thick. If you gave a plum assignment or perk to someone else, or otherwise slighted them or made their work more difficult, they’ll let you know just how much of a grievance they have. They may lay the same guilt trip on co-workers who they feel have slighted them as well.

With guilt trippers, Orloff advises educating them on how to communicate better. “A guilt tripper doesn’t know anything about communication,” she says. “Using the word I–’I feel this way,’ rather than ‘You did this to me.’ Just an education about that might be a help.” You can also talk to them about the effect their comments are having, since guilt trippers often don’t realize how they’re affecting others.

What’s the best role for a guilt tripper? “Not with people,” Orloff says. “Have them work on independent projects.”

In The News

Minn. bill allows solar panels in HOA communities The Minnesota House passed a bill Wednesday that would enable homeowners to install solar panels on their roofs without retribution from their HOAs as long as they own their roofs and aren’t part of a multi-family unit. Roughly 20% of the state’s HOAs, or up to 2,000 households, will be affected. “Solar represents a chance for suburbanites to do something about greenhouse gas emissions,” said Rep. Will Morgan, who introduced the bill. A similar bill has been heard in Missouri’s House Midwest Energy News (4/22)

How to respond to disability accommodation requests Condo associations and homeowners associations should create a policy that outlines how to respond to disability accommodations to avoid lawsuits while upholding standards for the community at large, writes Pamela Dittmer McKuen. McKuen advises that all accommodation requests be submitted in writing, information from a health professional should connect the disability to the accommodation being asked for, and all payment information regarding the modification should be documented. Board members should also remember that they are not allowed to ask detailed questions about one’s disability. Chicago Tribune (tiered subscription model) (4/27)

Colo. bill would put red tape on construction-defects lawsuits Colorado politicians are reviewing a proposed bill that would mandate that homeowner associations seeking to sue condo builders for construction defects must receive written consent from the majority of unit owners first and go through mediation prior to filing a lawsuit. HOA groups oppose the bill, saying they believe it keeps homeowners from protecting themselves via lawsuits and would require them to foot large repair bills should mediation result in funding caps. American City Business Journals (4/25)

CAMICB News

CAI Annual Conference Offers CMCAs Education, Networking The upcoming 2014 Community Associations Institute Annual Conference and Exposition, May 14 to 17 at Loews Royal Pacific at Universal Orlando, offers an opportunity for CMCAs to earn up to 15 continuing education credits toward CMCA recertification. The conference is expected to bring together more than 1,000 community managers, management company executives, product and service providers, and association board members from around the world for a content-rich educational event. The CAI conference is an opportunity for CMCAs to network with peers, meet personally with members of the CAMICB staff team, and learn about innovative best practices in community association management.

5 Ways to Turn TGIF into TGIM

By Peter Economy

The way you start next week has everything to do with how you end this week. To really rock your Mondays, be smarter about the way you spend your Fridays.

You know the feeling: The weekend flew by and suddenly it’s Monday morning, the most groan-inducing time of the week. It doesn’t have to be that way. Use Friday afternoons to plan your Mondays. It’s a great way to get a jump on next week even as you put a bow on this week. Here’s a simple five-task checklist that will make your Fridays and your Mondays better–and probably your weekends, too

1. Finish It Off

As Friday afternoon approaches Friday evening, it’s easy to mentally clock out and get distracted by your weekend plans. Or, Friday afternoon procrastination might force you to work Friday evenings. Take a few minutes to assess what projects can be finished before the (regular) end of day, or at the least what would constitute a respectable stopping point. Make a habit of trying to wrap current projects on Fridays instead of starting new ones. Set yourself up for success by finishing the most important things early in the day, leaving time in the afternoon to focus on your employees, and on the company as a whole.

2. Write It Down

Outlining your most essential Monday tasks before you head out on Friday is a surefire way to make sure you’ll hit the ground running next week. Write down what exactly needs to be accomplished, and be sure to build in time for something that makes you happy. Remember that Mondays are rough on everyone, so don’t wait until then to set times and places for meetings; have your day laid out as much as possible.

3. Clean It Up

A clear workspace is essential for a clear mind. The last thing you need on a Monday morning is to be rooting around your paper-strewn desk trying to find those notes from an important client meeting. Just 10 or 15 minutes spent de-cluttering today will seem like a great investment come Monday, and is likely to become a habit you’ll be glad you developed.

4. Talk It Over

Set aside an hour or two each Friday afternoon to reach out to your people, preferably in person. If you can’t meet face to face, initiate a video chat or a phone call with your team. Address any outstanding issues or conflicts, sure, but also use the time to simply make sure everyone is in the loop on everything they (and you) need to know about.

5. Leave It Behind

Two days away rarely seems like enough, so do yourself a favor and take advantage of Fridays by freeing your weekend from work-related tasks. Respond to phone calls and emails before you leave, try to keep work calls to a minimum over the weekend, and if responses can wait until Monday morning, let them. Although sending a quick response doesn’t take much time, it can often needlessly take you out of the weekend bubble. Your weekend will feel longer and less stressed if you learn to keep your work at the office and attack it truly refreshed on Monday.