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Group Decision Making in Communities

Posted by Jane F. Bolin, Esq. | May 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Effective Way to Approach Group Decision Making

As a community association or property manager, you are probably very well acquainted with the difficulties of making decisions in a group setting. People disagree, people choose an option just because the person next to them chose it, and it is often difficult to come to a decision at all. When it comes to community associations, the problem with groups is that they tend to lean towards the dominant position, regardless of if it is the best decision. People feel comfortable when in agreement, and groups unconsciously strive for harmony. This can be good if the dominant decision is the best one, but if it's not, it can lead to mistakes that could potentially cause trouble.

The best way to approach group decision making is with information. To make an informed decision, the group needs to focus on fact over emotion. It is all too common for the most passionate person's opinion to sound the best, but just because someone is passionate about an idea doesn't mean it is the best for the community.

Let's say you lived in a condo and the association rules stated that you couldn't have anything on your balcony. The rule was put into place when the building first opened and was filled with residents that only used it as a winter home. At the time, the rule was necessary because residents would leave furniture and such on the balcony when they went back to their permanent residence, and when hurricane season rolled along, items left on balconies became dangerous. Now, the building is occupied by a very different crowd, and has few residents that don't live there year round. Due to complaints by residents that they cannot have anything on their balcony, your condo association is meeting to discuss the balcony rule.

You believe that the rule should be changed to better match the desires of current residents, not the residents that lived in the building 10 years ago. On the other hand, there is an association member that has lived in the building since it opened and he is adamant that the rules have been working perfectly since put in place and there is no reason to change them. He is passionate about what he is taking about, and begins to get the other association members to side with him solely because he really cares about what he is saying.

What do you do? You truly believe that the rule should be changed, but you are not as passionate about the subject of balconies as the other association member is. This happens quite often in association meetings, and the answer is to use information to back up each point of view.

Use facts and statistics to strengthen your argument. Show them that 95% of the building uses the condo as their primary residence, and that 75% strongly believe they should be able to keep plants and furniture on their balconies. Suggest a system in which you send friendly reminders to residents to remove everything from the balcony during hurricane season, as well as reminders to residents who may be leaving to remove anything before they do. Use relevant and relatable information to build credibility and objectivity.

Don't let group decision making get the best of you. It can be hard to manage a group filled with different opinions and eventually make a decision, but information is powerful. The ideas and opinions that are going to be the strongest are the ones that are backed up by proven facts. Groups tend to make decisions that are more extreme than those of its individual members, so it's necessary to lead the conversation in such a way that no decision is made without proper discussion and identification of all possible outcomes.

About the Author

Jane F. Bolin, Esq.

Founding Member, Managing Partner


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