As an FM, you’re faced with a barrage of challenges on a daily basis - fixing them is your job after all. But being on the front-lines and regularly facing people’s displeasure can grind you down. And it’s worse when it’s simply not your fault. Difficult people exist, we’ve all encountered them.
From the guy who is just ALWAYS right, even though what he’s demanding is not in his contract. To that woman who won’t listen when you’ve told her for the 100th time that the building controlled heat isn’t on higher in her unit, she just has west facing windows. Though it’s hard to resist at times, blowing up at difficult people or ignoring their complaints is not a great way to run a facility efficiently.
Here’s how to deal with difficult building occupants (in a productive way!)
Ok, I’m not saying they’re not difficult. But just because they’re not a great person or they’re communicating in an arrogant way, that doesn’t necessarily make them wrong. With each interaction with a difficult building occupant, always remember to check yourself. Is there something actually wrong with the HVAC or lighting etc?
It might not feel good to give into their demands but if you ignore their complaints right off the bat because they’re always complaining, you might miss a problem you can actually fix. And you never know, providing them with a quick solution might be the thing that makes them a *little* less difficult to deal with going forward.
Also, remember to check your own reactions. Is there something you do when you speak to them that pushes them over the edge? Or do you find them so difficult because they just press all your buttons? Having this self-awareness can help you as you go into future interactions because, after-all, forewarned is forearmed.
Get Another Opinion
It can be hard to be objective when faced with rude or difficult people. Sometimes simply talking through the problem with an impartial third-party can be all it takes to find a solution. Remember to be honest and try and give the whole story, not just your side of the tale. You might be surprised at the patterns and solutions that emerge when you discuss the situation with another person.
Keep Calm and Carry On
The number one thing to remember when you come face to face with a difficult person is to KEEP CALM. Don’t let them disrupt your entire day; you’ve got too many things that need to get done to let them derail you.
It takes willpower but staying calm will help you avoid fanning the flames of their anger. Instead of snapping, take a moment to listen to them and make a note of their issue. Then calmly explain that you are dealing with another situation at this very moment (give them some context if you can) and then give them a specific time that you will get back to them (avoid saying you’ll get to it “when you can” or some other vague response as this will likely rile them further).
Take a Walk in Their Shoes
Though we might not like to admit it, rarely are people just awful for no reason. It might not always be obvious, but try to understand what’s behind the person’s anger or attitude. In the case of the tenant who is making unreasonable demands that are outside of their contract, ask yourself what’s motivating this. Maybe they have a boss who is breathing down their neck and they’re worried about their job.
If you can understand where a person is coming from, it will help you empathize with them and build rapport. If you can find a different way to solve their issue that works for you both, it will completely change your relationship dynamic.
Be Respectful but Be Clear
One of the big problems with difficult people is that they often lack empathy and have trouble seeing things from another person’s point of view. When you’re dealing with someone like this, acknowledge their issue and then, calmly and respectfully, explain the situation from where you’re standing.
Let them know the reasons why their plumbing issue can’t be fixed immediately or the regular maintenance and repairs have to go ahead on the planned date even though it’s an inconvenience for them. The more information you can give them the better; often people like this will never have considered things that are outside their realm of experience.