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Grappling with stress head-on

10 March 2015 Suze Forster

There’s no doubt about it; property management is THE most stressful role in real estate.

On any given day you’re managing maintenance crises (real and perceived), handling disputes between warring tenants, taking calls from belligerent (sometimes abusive) landlords and tenants, and generally fighting an uphill battle to re-let vacant properties in a market where the supply far outweighs the demand.

Most property managers take their work home with them - even when they leave their workstation in the office behind. Potential disasters, possible scenarios and anxieties awaiting you the next day play out in your head like a never-ending record.

So how do we manage stress? What strategies can we employ to ensure workplace satisfaction, to preserve our health and emotional/mental well-being, and avoid the all too familiar final resolution of resigning when we feel overwhelmed?

Live by the '9:30am rule': Tackle your most daunting tasks before 9:30am. Mark Twain once said “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you all day”. Make the call to that landlord you know is going to blast you into the middle of next week. Address those arrears. Make those callbacks following open house exhibitions to clients with disappointing feedback. Knock over everything that you want to avoid doing first thing in the morning and save yourself a day of angst, nervous deliberation, avoidance and procrastination. Whatever the outcome, once it’s done, it’s done. 

Be self-aware: Are you aware of how you respond to conflict or confrontation? Do you seize up? Become defensive? Shut down? Fire up? Being aware of your emotional response to ‘fight or flight’ situations is the first step to responding to them as opposed to reacting to them. The golden rule of confrontation and conflict: actively listen. The person at the other end of the phone call or on the opposite end of the counter is already upset or angry - often at the situation, not you. Respond first by telling them that you’d like to hear every detail of their issue. Take notes. Acknowledge what they’re telling you - don’t refute, minimise or dismiss it. Empathise. These preliminary steps will de-escalate confrontation and conflict in almost 90 per cent of all situations. Demonstrate a genuine desire to address and resolve the matter. Seek advice if necessary. And then propose a solution. Be accountable. Even if the issue didn’t arise as a result of your negligence or error, a willingness to sort it out irrespective of its origin builds trust. Handle a tough situation well and that client screaming down the phone at you will become your biggest fan.

Change your voicemail: My voicemail spiel ends with “If you are calling after 6pm, I will return your call after 9am the following business day”. If your voicemail indicates that you’d like to be left a message and you’ll call back, the caller will want to hear from you now (if not sooner!). Turn your phone off after 6pm and avoid the temptation to take the call “in case it’s important”. You’ve already indicated to the caller that their call is important and that you’ll respond the next day - set the expectation for them. Most property managers are made to feel they are supposed to be available 24/7 - re-write the rules. You’ll find your clients will respect them.

Switch off and set boundaries: Unless you have a very good reason to take work home, leave work at work. We all have peaks and troughs. Peak periods will sometimes extend beyond work hours and the office. When they do, take a break when you go home. Give yourself a couple of hours to unwind and in that time, don’t check your email, don’t answer your phone. Set hard and fast boundaries. Appoint a time (and a time limit) for the work to be completed at home.

Take up a hobby: It doesn’t need to be needlepoint or stamp collecting. It can be anything. Walking the dogs. Photography. Canoeing. Pinterest. Salsa dancing! Anything that disconnects you from property management and engages you fully in something you not only enjoy but that makes you come alive. Balance in life augments perspective at work. No role should ever be 'all work and no play'. Otherwise what’s the point?

Debrief: Have a 'go-to' person you can unpack all of that frustration and anxiety with - objective counsel can save you the grief of exercising stress-compromised judgement or making emotionally based decisions (and you’ll feel a whole lot better).

None of the above are easy - managing stress is a discipline, but with a few simple guidelines, boundaries and a sounding board or two, you can achieve balance, perspective and job place satisfaction.

Grappling with stress head-on
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Suze is currently a business development manager and senior property manager with LJ Hooker Queanbeyan. With 17 years' experience in real estate in the fields of marketing, finance, office management, property management, social media management and new business generation, Suze draws on the medley of her knowledge in these fields for the content of her articles. She credits the diversity of her experience for equipping her to establish client relationships grounded in honesty, transparency, accountability and integrity.

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