For the purposes of explaining “power” for a code official, I would like to start by discussing conflict in the regulatory code environment. I will operate from the assumption that “conflict” encountered by code regulators is simply an alternate or opposing view by an individual (or organization) that produces different outcomes affecting a person or a group of people (i.e. the resident versus the city) hence, a “power” struggle.
According to the book entitled “Interpersonal Conflict” by Wilmont & Hocker “ All conflicts at some level hinge upon the fact that people perceive that there are incompatible goals held by a person (or organization) that is interfering with what the other person wants.” For code regulators, that basically means we encounter some residents (or business owners) that have beliefs systems which give meaning to their lives, and when we come to enforce the code, we impose a perceived incompatible belief system that is a threat to their survival.
So why does managing the relationship of conflict and power even matter?
Well, if power is the ability to affect or influence; it is a good idea to leverage techniques that will assuage a resident’s anxiety. With power, people follow you by their own will–a person can possess a great deal of power and absolutely no authority to do anything.
According to Wilmont & Hocker “ People feel passionately about power—who has it, who ought to have more or less, how people misuse power, and how justified they feel in trying to gain more power for themselves.” Managing your relationship of conflict and power can be addressed in many ways, and the technique used to resolve it heavily depends on the situation. Some people often try to avoid conflict or pretend that it does not exist when enforcing codes, but when making decisions as a state or local authority, one must highly consider opposing views and the potential impact “power” of your decisions.
About the author: Marcus Kellum, MMPA CCEA
Marcus Kellum has worked with local governments, private businesses, and professional organizations across the country to train their regulatory, compliance and enforcement officers and inspectors. He spent nearly three decades in public service working with various cities and counties in Georgia, Colorado, and the City of New York. He has held positions as code division manager, chief of enforcement, and department director. Marcus is a Certified Code Enforcement Administrator and holds a BS in criminal justice administration, and a master’s degree in management and public administration.