The Cold War was a time of intense geopolitical tension between the USA and the Soviet Union. The “Us vs Them” mentality defined the era and paranoia was rampant as these two superpower nations engaged in a political rivalry for dominance, influence, and nuclear proliferation.
The movie WarGames was released in 1983 starring the fresh-faced Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy. Using very early technology and his love of computer games, this young hacker accidentally accesses the US military centralized computer system. Things don’t go so well when he engages in a “game” labeled Global Thermonuclear War and plays it in the role of the Soviet Union.
The United States believes the Soviet Union is actually launching nuclear missiles and plans a counter-attack. Spoiler alert: no actual nuclear missiles were launched and all of America learned what DEFCON levels were as a measure of defense readiness. DEFCON 5 – normal readiness. DEFCON 1 – maximum readiness/immediate response (nuclear war is imminent).
The movie makes a profound statement that applies to our industry today. As the computer simulates all the potential outcomes of a global thermonuclear war, it learns (early AI reference!) that the game is very strange.
The only winning move is not to play. Profound.
How many times do we engage in conflicts that have no real winner? When front line team members become frustrated by residents who are rude, upset, or just plain difficult, there can be a tendency to escalate the conflict in order to win the dispute through the heavy-handed use of “that is our policy” or “we don’t allow (fill in the blank)”, or “I can’t do what you want because of fair housing”. Most of the time, these statements cannot be linked back to a valid written policy, rule, or any particular fair housing guideline. They are simply employed as weapons to win the argument.
Entering into a dispute with a resident with the goal of winning at all costs is playing to lose.
Take a beat – a breath or two – and ask yourself: What do I really want? Do I just want to be right? Do I want to punish? To be the boss? To win! If the answer in your truthful gut is yes – then your motivation is wrong, and your pride and adrenalin are likely running the show.
What do you truly want? You want that angry resident to feel heard and to turn an upset customer into a fan. You want to make your job easier by making your customer happy.
The only way to win the war game with residents is not to play.
Companies in the multifamily space must invest in the education of their team members. The art of engaging in Crucial Conversations and conflict resolution are skills that can and should be learned. When all team members learn to speak the language of elevated customer satisfaction and begin to naturally strive for stronger resident relationships – that is a game worth playing.
When your Resident Satisfaction State of Alert is at DEFCON 5 – all is well on the home front.
About Mike Brewer
My mission is to tease out the human potential in the multifamily space.