Why residents bullying condo security is a perpetual problem

6 min read

At this point, you’ve probably seen the video of someone deciding to publicly embarrass himself over $10. It’s one in a long string of incidents, involving the abuse of security guards – a problem that’s just as prevalent in condos as it is malls. Today we’re going to explain why this issue never seems to go away:

1. Condo security: helpers or enforcers?

The main issue can be found in the words “I buy your f**king property for $1.5 million“.

The connotation is that the owners (and by some extension, the tenants who pay rent to live there) are the bosses – they’re the ones who ultimately write the security guard’s pay cheque.

Not all owners / tenants feel this way of course; the better- adjusted ones understand it’s the collective owners who are the boss. But too many owners / tenants are under the impression they’re the individual bosses of the guards, which makes this an issue.

That’s because the security guard is an enforcer. It’s the same guard’s job to tell residents where their guests can park, tell them to turn down the music, and tell them to put the free weights back on gym racks.

For the ones who think of themselves as the guard’s employer, that’s unacceptable. In their defective mind, the guard’s job is to enforce their rules, rather than enforce rules on them (i.e. keep strangers off my property, but don’t you dare tell me where my visitors can park). These are precisely the kind of people who will yell at a policeman that “my tax dollars pay your salary”, after they get caught speeding next to a kindergarten.

And given the population density of a condo, it’s inevitable that some percentage of them will be around to harass security guards.

security guard condo
Spare a thought for the security uncle

2. Security guards don’t have the sort of flexibility that residents imagine

Case in point, People’s Park Complex earlier this year: residents were “black marked” for having guests over longer than two hours, and security checks were so draconian one tenant had to stay elsewhere for three nights.

The first impulse is to assume the guards were being irrational jerks; but they didn’t make the rules. And if they’re being draconian, it’s because security agencies often get fined for being flexible.

Every time a security guard lets you bring an unregistered guest into the gym, or lets you double-park while you run and get your wallet, that’s a massive risk to them. If even one other resident decides to complain, the agency faces a double-whammy: a fine for the slip-up (amount based on the contract with the management), and a risk of being replaced (the MCST can always replace the security agency when the contract is up).

As for the security guard in question…would you risk your job to give someone 10 minutes of illegal parking?

So when management makes stupid rules, security is required to rigidly enforce them. Including on residents who stumble back from the office after a 15 hour shift, and can’t get home because they forgot their pass.

3. It’s more about the resident’s need to vent than anything

In what situation – outside of SAF – have you seen swearing make the other party more amenable?

If I call someone a horse’s ass, and make disparaging remarks about their mother and five fathers, what are the odds they”ll be more inclined to do what I ask? How many times in your life have you heard someone say “Oh that four-letter word hurt me too much, so I’ll just do what you say now?”

Even in their limited mental capacity, belligerent residents know better than to believe they’ll get things their way. That was probably apparent to Mr $1.5 million as early as two minutes into his rant. At that point, the swearing was just venting. But this is a good example of why – no matter how many avenues of feedback the MCST prevents – abuse of security guards still happens.

The abuse and rudeness comes from a resident who feels powerless in the moment, and just needs a face to scream at. Most of the time, that face is the security guard’s.

4. Security guards get forced to “take sides”, and end up part of a vendetta

Condo MCST resident fight
Security often gets caught in the middle of residents’ fights – and that sparks ongoing rudeness for them.

When two residents have a go at each other, security usually ends up having to take a side. This happens when residents complain about each other’s noise, laundry, pets, or parking practices.

When the security guard enforces the law, they make an eternal enemy out of the resident who loses. The security guard in my condo once took the side of a woman who said that, yes, her maid can accompany the family’s children into the pool. The other resident, who felt domestic workers shouldn’t be using the facilities, still whines about it at AGMs.

But she also gets into loud arguments with security at least twice a week – for reasons that range from dirty toilets in the clubhouse (not the security guard’s job), to loudly saying they’re lazy and stupid the second they’re in earshot. She’s really at war with the other resident; but the security guards – who follow the rules – get caught up in the personal dispute.

And in just about every condo, there tends to be at least one of these residents.

5. We’re not respectful of the role

It comes down to years of parents pointing at security guards and cleaners, and telling their children “You don’t work hard, you’ll end up like that.” Security guard – like cleaner or taxi driver – is considered a job of last resort by many Singaporeans.

Combine it with a misinterpretation of meritocracy, and enough wealth to own a condo unit, and you might find the perfect blend of elitist turd. For someone who feels socioeconomically superior to a security guard, being given orders – like “please leave the gym, it’s past 10 o’clock” – is intolerable.

In their minds, that would be taking orders from an inferior.

Is there ever going to be an end to it?

Not barring a massive change in our culture. There’s a fundamental reason why so much bullying seems to involve security guards on the receiving end: this is a group of people who don’t get the respect they deserve, but are nonetheless tasked with enforcing laws on others (in their own homes to boot).

It’s a near impossible task. You can’t easily impose rules on people, if you lack – in their eyes – the social authority to do so.

How can we stop the bullying of security guards? Voice your thoughts in our comments section or on our Facebook community page.

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