By Chris Herron, Westwind Management; Sandra Oldenburg, Poudre Property Management; Trina Rodriguez, MSI, LLC; Linda Warren, Warren Management
Keely Garcia, CAI-RMC Spring Conference Co-Chair
Ethics. Principals. Integrity. Virtue. We all know these words, but do we really know what they mean and how they apply to Homeowner Leaders, Community Association Managers, and Business Partners that support our community? An ethics statement defines the minimum standard to which people must adhere while creating a “level playing field” for all members supporting the industry, a standard for volunteers who support community associations, and a common bar for all community association managers to respect and uphold. Ethical situations are a normality in any profession, especially those that involve so many different relationships and personalities. Because the world does not exist in black and white, knowing how to identify and address potential ethical dilemmas is crucial to every member of CAI. Understanding and openly discussing ethics will prepare each of us when faced with these uncomfortable situations.
Identifying an ethical violation may be difficult. Regularly reviewing your company’s standards, service contracts, CAI Code of Conduct, and CAMICB Professional Standards for credentialed members is always good practice. CAMICB, CAI National, CAI-RMC and CAI-SOCO information can be found on their respective websites. If you are unsure about an infraction, trust your gut. If something feels off there is no harm in discussing it.
“Everybody does it.” “It isn’t a big deal.” “This is just the way things are done.” “You don’t know all of the information.” These are not acceptable responses to an ethical quandary.
Do not be persuaded to let an ethical violation pass. What harms one of us harms all of us.
Addressing the situation can be more daunting. First, understand your company policy. Guidance may differ between addressing the situation directly with the potential offender and escalating it to a member of leadership. Any type of confrontation may come with the fear of, or even result in, retaliation or damaged relationships. While addressing the issue properly can help the situation, accusations likely automatically put the other person on the defense. Instead, try to understand the reasons behind someone’s actions and communicate openly with them. Be clear about the issue, ask questions, and keep to the known facts. You may find out that the person simply does not have enough information or experience to understand or properly analyze the ethical situation. They may have tried to solve the problem differently than you would. Ask yourself if their actions are violating professional or company standards. If the violations are clear, and you believe an ethical problem still exists after such open communication, escalation is likely necessary.
The following are a few ethical issues which arise in our industry and which you should discuss with your company or association:
- Providing services at no cost to ‘show’ the community association manager/management company demonstrative services.
- Buying favors and expecting a tangible return, such as inviting a client to high cost events (sporting event, concert, ski weekend).
- Excessive gifting of marketing items.
- Offering financial benefits to community association manager and/or board members in exchange for acceptance of a proposal.
- Asking for and/or receiving competitors pricing, proposals, or protected information for gain.
- Clients crossing their own ethical lines (how to address and remedy).
- Abusing relationships and/or speaking poorly about other members of CAI.
- When CCIOA/Colorado Statutes collide with one’s ethical duties.
Remember, we are only human, and so are the people with whom we interact. Learning to be an ethical person is a continuous journey. We are always learning and growing as people and professionals. Discussing difficult issues elevates all of us, our industry, and our clients.
This article is a summarization of the Manager Ethics Panel which was scheduled to present at the CAI-RMC Spring Conference (re-scheduled for November 2020). Spring Conference Co-Chair Keely Garcia curated the main points of the panel and summarized them here on behalf of the CAI-Editorial Committee.