You’ve heard the term “burning bridges;” it’s a phrase that’s used in the business world, as well as social life, to refer to ruining a relationship when you’re on the way out the door.
It’s what happens when a fed-up employee quits a job and flips off the boss as he (or she) leaves. Another example is yelling hateful words at a significant other during or after a break-up.
It can apply to any situation in which you compromise any possible future of the relationship, personal or professional, by doing or saying something that’s unproductive, derogatory, untrue, or otherwise damaging.
When you’re a landlord or real estate professional, you’ll probably experience dozens of encounters when your emotions impel you to burn a bridge and move on. But in almost every case, there’s a better outcome for everyone involved.
Learning how to handle these situations will improve the outlook of your career.
Here’s Why You Never Want to Burn a Bridge
Throughout history, bridges often served as the main channel into certain towns. In many famous battles — such as quite a few that were fought during the Civil War — generals would burn the bridge on their army’s way out of town.
The idea was that this would cut off pursuit and supply lines for the enemy army and provide an added layer of defense. Though this often worked, it could also create challenges if another enemy army came from ahead, or the enemy circled around.
A destroyed bridge hampered one’s ability to fall back, so it could be the cause of an army’s destruction as well as its survival.
Just like a battalion of soldiers who may subsequently need to use a bridge again as a means of transport, you’d be smart to keep your own “bridges” intact. You can never be certain about when you might need a relationship in the future, so it’s best not to destroy it over a relatively small matter.
In a closely connected and fluid industry such as real estate, burning bridges with tenants, real estate investors, banks, agents, or insurance companies can hurt you later when you most need assistance. A scorched-earth response might satisfy your high emotion in the moment, but at the expense of future opportunities.
It also consumes time and energy you would be better off giving to your business and future pursuits.
When you burn a bridge, you’re also likely to spend additional time thinking about the situation afterward. You’ve also just given some new “enemies” the temptation and opportunity to speak poorly of you to others, which can affect you further and demand some form of public response.
“I learned early in life that the more time I spend talking about someone else, then naturally I am spending less time talking about me,” real estate investor Chris Clothier writes.
“The more time I spend fighting baseless comments or negative attacks, the less time I spend communicating the positive message I want to communicate about my company. This is where an enemy of our business gets us distracted and where they do the most harm. The words someone says about us may be bad, but our reaction is what hurts our business.”
Five Tips for Fostering Positive, Healthy Relationships
The only time you should ever burn a bridge is when your integrity is on the line and the only alternative is to say or do something that’s unethical or immoral. Assuming that isn’t the case, your primary focus should be on fostering positive and healthy relationships at all times.
When you’re a landlord, the following five tips will help you in this pursuit.
1. Be Communicative
“Landlords should clearly establish a protocol of communication, letting tenants know the best way to contact them, what to do in the event of an emergency, and the kind of response time to expect,” industry insider Lauren Ro writes.
The more you communicate with your tenants, the less they’re likely to harbor hard feelings or build up any sort of ill will toward you.
2. Show Compassion
Don’t lash out the first time a tenant misses a rent payment or sends a check a few days late. There may be an acceptable reason for the lapse, and you should extend the benefit of the doubt until you learn more. By showing compassion, you make it much more likely that people will pay on time in the future.
3. Make Eviction the Last Resort
If you have a tenant who isn’t paying rent and/or destroys property, it’s only natural that you’d want to get rid of him or her. And though an eviction may be the first thing that crosses your mind, you shouldn’t let it be the first option you pursue.
Evictions can get very messy and will almost certainly burn any potential bridge. They’re certainly an option, but they should be the final one. Always attempt other methods first, such as cash for keys, before taking things to that level.
4. Continue to Invest in Your Properties
Most tenants are going to be perfectly happy if the property you’re providing is safe, clean, and as described. When you fail to meet expectations, however, you’ll frustrate your tenants and the relationship will deteriorate.
To keep renters happy, continue to invest in your properties on a regular basis. This means you should handle maintenance requests immediately and perform upgrades while people live in the property, not just after they move out … as long as they’re amenable to any disruption.
5. Take the High Road
There will inevitably be times when you part with a tenant on bad terms. Although you don’t have to try to preserve a warm and fuzzy feeling about such a person, it’s still worth trying to avoid letting your emotions get the best of you.
No matter how hateful or spiteful a tenant might be, take the high road and wish the person well. Not only could this help to salvage some piece of the relationship, but it also actively trains your brain to respond to combative situations healthily.
Let Green Residential Help
Sometimes you just need an ally: someone to help cushion the blows or soften the friction between you and your tenants. At Green Residential, we’re happy to fill that need.
Not only do we provide comprehensive property management services, but we’re also here to help our clients manage relationships and build stronger connections. For additional information on how we can help, please contact us today!