Working at a “Push Button” Community Can Impede Employee Potential


Every apartment community has a personality. In fact, if you were to divide up all of the apartment communities in your company portfolio, it is likely that each one would fall into one of the following three categories:

1. Hell on Wheels: A difficult, demanding, back-breaking, problematic community.

2. Easy-Going: An average, occasional challenge, mostly pleasant community.

3. Push Button: A simple, no sweat, uncomplicated, “daily vacation” community.

While every onsite employee deserves the opportunity to experience all three types of communities during their career, too much time spent at any one has its shortcomings and can stifle employee growth.

In this post, we focus on how working at a push button community can impede employee potential.

The following story is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Molly Berry was a very successful leasing consultant. She had worked for Happy Resident Management for 10 years. She was referred to by management as the “leasing machine”. She could lease any apartment to anyone. Her office walls were draped with leasing awards. She was always #1 on the leasing list each month. Molly was sought after by every property manager. But…Molly was very content at her permanent home community. It was a “Push Button” type apartment community.

One day she received a call from the corporate office with an opportunity. One of the most beautiful brand new “Hell on Wheels” communities was struggling. It was located in a very competitive market. The apartments were small, the rents were high, and the apartments were leasing well. The residents were also extremely demanding and employee turnover was outrageous.

• Every resident and customer was either in law school, or their parent was a lawyer who just so happened to work for the “most influential” firm on the PLANET!

• Everyone owned a dog. Many of them were the size of a small horse.

• Most of the residents’ vehicles were valued in the $50,000+ range. Intentional door dinging was prevalent.

They needed it leased-up…NOW! They needed Molly. She was offered FREE rent for 3 months and all expenses paid to get the job done. What a great opportunity for employee growth.

But to make a long story short, Molly Berry crashed and burned. During her first week when her adrenaline was peaking she didn’t lease a single apartment. She was like a fish out of water. Communication with the residents was difficult for her. Her daily emotional breakdowns became prevalent. After thirty-days, Molly begged to return to her home community. Her ego was crushed. She was embarrassed.

How could this be? What happened to this leasing superstar? It’s not so much about what happened to her, but instead, what didn’t happen to her. She was the result of her “Push Button” type community’s environment.

1. Her Performance Abilities Were Masked

When an employee spends too much time at a “Push Button” community their true performance abilities are often masked. When they are relocated to a more challenging community or work environment their potential for employee growth (or the lack thereof) is fast apparent. Either their weaknesses become glaringly obvious or they quickly rise to the top. This change/challenge can be a good indicator of their real ability and future potential, too.

2. Her Growth Potential was Stifled

This is the biggie. I wonder how different this story would have ended had Molly been challenged early on in her career? Clearly she had potential, yet her growth was stifled as a result of her uncomplicated work environment. Setting high expectations and challenging employees is one of the primary responsibilities of leaders. We fail our employees when we don’t raise the bar after they jump the same hurdle over and over again. I know that no one likes relocating employees. It disrupts resident relations, the employee has to learn something new, a new person must be identified and trained, it upsets the owner, etc. But, this is how we grow! When the job becomes too easy, it’s time to move on.

3. Complacency Sets In

You know your employees are becoming complacent when they take shortcuts in their work. They are not as thorough or detailed oriented as they once were—and believe that their positive reputation will give them the permission to be lazy. They simply lose their desire to compete because they don’t have to. They are not only cheating themselves but they are also cheating the company. They become complacent. Sometimes they stay, and sometimes they go. Neither result is positive.

In my experience, the most successful companies have employees who can work at a community with any of the three different personalities and achieve immediate success. Certainly, some will fail. They might leave. That’s okay.

I am grateful to the leaders who didn’t allow me to become complacent. My abilities were rarely masked, and my growth potential was never stifled. When I thought I was not capable, they believed in me. I learned and grew from every “Hell on Wheels” community that I worked on, and I wouldn’t wish away any experience—even the really bad ones.

Some of the most successful people I know in this industry have faced great adversity and have worked in extremely challenging environments. Don’t let too much time working at a “Push Button” community impede your or your employees’ potential.

Your turn!

Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Ellis Partners in Management Solutions