Like a great many New York City supers out there, I've worked with numerous
property managers in my life in New York City supering. Some I've come to
like a lot. One, although it's been many years since we've worked together,
we now and again make a mutual effort to have a drink together to catch up.
is one I still have secret homicidal thoughts about, and if I ever see him
again, even on a crowded street in front of a police precinct house, I will
probably have to be restrained.
rest fall mostly somewhere in the more benign middle.
property managers in New York are not required to have a degree or pass a
“property management test” or be in a formal way certified to manage a
residential property, almost anyone can, and I might add unfortunately does,
become a property manager. I worked with one some years ago who quite
obviously, despite what we were told, had no previous relevant experience.
He reeked of inexperience and fear, and the worst thing was, he didn't get
any better at his job with time.
needless to say, it was one of my worst experiences being a super, and one
in which I came out of it at the other end saying "What was THAT all about?"
say ALMOST needless to say, because I do mean to qualify that statement
somewhat. I know that one doesn't necessarily have to have experience in a
field to be or become quite good at it, or even to have the makings of being
good (some people, because of their demeanor, previous relevant experience
or high emotional intelligence can quickly become proficient in most
anything they try).
the time work experience helps, of course, and the longer one's experience
the better, more proficient and adept one will become. And the more quickly
it will all come together.
the time, experience can be a direct, insulting hindrance.
Nevertheless, most anyone can become a better property manager with
experience. Not true with this dud, however. After a year and a half’s worth
of experience, he was no better than the day he started, and in some ways
much worse, mainly because he believed, quite wrongly, that the experience
gained in that year and a half had brought him proficiency, knack and
know-how - somehow made him better at what he did.
to say, he thought, after more than a year on the job, that he knew what he
was doing. Too bad - he really didn't and it showed.
say we learn from experience. For 99.9 per cent of the population, that
would almost certainly be true. But there is still that 0.1 per cent who
can't seem to tease out some level of learning, understanding and common
sense from anything that is thrown at them.
don't understand why someone didn't tell him the job didn't fit him, someone
he trusted who could have been a good influence on him. But this much I
found to be true: the only thing worse than working with and for a manager
who doesn't know what he's doing or what he's talking about, is working with
one who thinks he knows what he's doing and talking about - but
certainly tried to help him, to tell him. More than once. He thought it was
personal between us. Couldn't have been further from the truth, but our
relationship was what it was. Truth be told, it doesn't, in and of
itself, bother me greatly to work for someone who knows so much less than I,
or has so much less experience.
what really grabs my gotcha is if that person has neither the stones, the
common sense nor the intelligence to learn from his experiences, to grow
from the lessons screaming out to be learned.
as bad, and this happened to me a lot with this guy, because of the DIPs
(developmentally impeded pipsqueaks) he turned to for guidance when he got
lost (which was only all the time and every working day) was when you knew
he was telling you to do something only because HE was told by his superiors
to tell you to do it that way, and not out of the experience to know why or
why not, and explain why it should be done that way.
mention knowing that he and his superiors - all of them put together - had
nowhere near the experience nor the expertise and common sense in the field
that I had in my little left finger.
to say the least, a deeply humbling experience - the kind that leaves scars
and sundry other signs of struggle - to have to carry out orders from a
complete greenhorn and his acolytes and collaborate, in a manner of
speaking, on numbskull directives cooked up from on high. And
furthermore, to be a part of perpetrating them, with a straight face
even, on completely innocent (well, maybe not completely innocent) but very
then having to explain to my residents when they invariably had that
shining, spluttering WTF moment and a clear channel to vent to me upon
cornering me alone, that this wasn't springing fully-formed out of my own
cranium but I was merely following and carrying out orders from the
not-so-sharp knives-that-be above, all without losing my dignity and
patience and without the dissing and unbearably debilitating blame game that
tends to grow like a cancer inside you.
brings me to this thought: if you don't respect someone, you probably don't
like them very much, right?
wants, nay one needs, to respect those one works for. But when it can't be
pulled off, it can, well, damage the relationship. To say the least and to
wrap it up in a nice bow.
do in such a case? All I can say is each super super must work out his own
collection of responses, on his own time and in his own way, and make it
work for him or her. No two supers are alike (now there's a blinding bit of
insight) just as no two managers are alike, and therein lies the rub.
being all-too-human as the tendency is, we all have to make honest,
continuing attempts over time to work with those whom we find in the mix
together with us, and try to get the projects of the day, the week and the
year completed, for the greater good of the building and its residents.
speaking of wrapping it all up in a nice bow, it probably can't be done, if
we're talking about how to deal with the problem manager. It's work. It's
life. And if you're smart it's a learning experience, one which you can
write home about (or in a super’s newsletter) some day.
if you have a good manager, or a great one – and yes there are plenty out
there so thank your lucky stars for that - thank him or her once in a while
also. Let him or her know how you feel. Do tell that you appreciate the hard
work on yours, and your residents, behalf.
it’s a truism that the good ones invariably have at least this one thing in
common: they work extremely hard, and very conscientiously, for you and your
residents. Much of it you don't even know about, unless you've also been a
property manager once.
brings me to my final reflection on this issue.
leery theory is this (no this is not an original thought, I know numerous
supers have yearned vocally for this very same thing): part of the formal
training a property manager should have (yes I think some formal training
should be mandated) is a minimum of a year as a residential super before
being allowed to manage a high-end residential property.
that'll happen, sometime directly following the aftermath of a certain
hotspot getting frosty all under. But wouldn't THAT help the property
management world imagine the possibilities and allow them to walk a mile or
two in a set of super work boots?