Dealing with Difficult Board Members

Oct 30, 2023

Every experienced association leader has encountered a challenging Board member at some point. I recall an incident from my early career where I served on a Board with an individual who resorted to throwing things at people when faced with disagreement (not surprisingly, I didn’t remain on that Board for long).

Dealing with a difficult Board member can present challenges that extend beyond the confines of the Boardroom. Whether it involves disagreements over strategy or clashes in personalities, there are several strategies that can assist in effectively addressing such situations:

Communicate openly and transparently.

One key to dealing with a difficult Board member is to ensure open and transparent communication. This means being clear and direct in your communication and setting clear expectations for how you expect to work together. Don’t expect subtle hints to work.

Seek to understand their perspective.

They may be expressing a valid opinion in a challenging manner. It’s important to try to understand the perspective of a difficult Board member and consider their concerns and ideas. This may require active listening and asking questions to get a better understanding of their point of view.

Establish clear boundaries.

To prevent conflicts from escalating, it’s important to establish clear boundaries and communicate these to the difficult Board member. This could include setting limits on the amount of time you’re willing to spend discussing certain issues or establishing clear rules for communication.

Encourage collaboration.

Encouraging collaboration and teamwork can help diffuse tension and foster a more positive and productive environment. Consider encouraging the difficult Board member to work with other team members on projects and tasks to help build relationships and foster a sense of teamwork.

Seek support from other Board members.

If you’re struggling to effectively manage a difficult Board member, it can be helpful to seek support and guidance from other members of the Board. This could involve seeking the help of a neutral third party, such as a mediator, to facilitate discussions and find resolution.

Consider alternative dispute resolution.

If conflicts with a difficult Board member are unable to be resolved through normal channels, it may be necessary to consider alternative dispute resolution methods. This could include mediation or arbitration to help find a resolution that is acceptable to both parties.

Remove the Board member.

Removing a difficult Board member should be considered as a last resort when all other attempts to resolve the issues have been exhausted. It is essential to follow the proper procedures and consult legal guidance to ensure the process is conducted appropriately and within the boundaries of the governing rules.

Take care of your own well-being.

Managing a difficult Board member can be stressful and can take a toll on your well-being. It’s important to take care of yourself and seek support when needed. This could involve seeking the help of a coach or counsellor, or finding ways to manage stress, such as through regular exercise or mindfulness practices.

If you are looking for support to ensure your Board is performing optimally, I recommend having a chat with the team at Enterprise Care – specialists in association governance.