How to Deal With Problem Board Members
Posted on: 5/16/2018
Before you read further, make sure that they really are a problem. Maybe the person is right and the board simply doesn’t want to hear it. Don’t take it personally. Conflict is not necessarily a problem. Differing opinions is why you have a board. Healthy debate should be encouraged.
That being said, of course there are those board members that either make it difficult to accomplish board duties or will make the rest of the board’s lives miserable.
So you really have a problem board member? Read on…
- Always tries to dominate a meeting, is basically a bully, and constantly interrupts other board members.
- Doesn’t perform the duties expected of them.
- Doesn’t attend meetings. Makes it difficult to reach a quorum.
- Is always negative and argues about everything. No matter what the topic they will oppose it, be angry about it, and cause meetings to take much longer than needed.
- Goes on and on when speaking. They put everyone to sleep and also cause meetings to take too long.
- Resistant to change or new technology. “We have always done it this way”. “We don’t need to use computers.” Sound familiar?
- Starting a mutiny. Tries to manipulate other board members into agreeing with their views and opposing others.
- Talk to the person privately and in person. Try to get them to understand how their behavior is hurting the organization. Always do your best to stay in control and not get angry. Put the emphasis on the effects to the organization rather than on what the person “did.” Use specific examples of the behavior, not generalities. Listen to the person and let them have a chance to process what you are trying to convey.
- Does the person have temporary issues at this time? They or a family member may be going through medical or other personal issues. Or work is really demanding right now. If the issue is temporary, just allowing some time may be sufficient. If the issues will continue long enough, suggest that the person step down from the board to allow someone else who has the time to participate.
- If the board member does not attend many meetings discuss with them how missing meetings hurts the rest of the board. A board member has the duty to participate in the meetings and give important feedback and opinions to the rest of the board. Also, absences may prevent voting at meetings if attendance is not enough to reach a quorum. Point out any rules on attendance from your bylaws.
- Document and publish attendance in a newsletter or on your website. This can be in a login protected area. The person may feel more obligated to attend meetings if they know all the homeowners will know who’s missing meetings.
- If the board member is not contributing at meetings and just sitting there, directly ask them for opinions, try volunteering them for committees, or some other way to get them involved. They may be very shy and need some prompting.
- To reduce problems such as someone dominating a meeting, droning on and on, or always interrupting, set specific time limits for speaking at meetings. Make it clear that no one else should interrupt during a speaker’s time. Comments can wait until they are finished.
- Is it possible to reduce the problem board member’s responsibilities? Perhaps you can remove the immediate issue by delegating some of their responsibilities to a committee. Brainstorm ideas to take a specific problem topic away from the offending board member.
- Try team-building exercises. Plan a weekend team-building board retreat. If board members can’t devote that much time to a retreat, try to creatively incorporate team building into an exercise before or after a meeting or other activity.
- As a last resort consider having the person removed from the board. Be careful here. State statutes and bylaws will determine how to go about this. That is a topic for another day. And as always, treat the person with respect no matter how many problems they are causing.
Here are some techniques for preventing future problems:
- Create detailed job descriptions along with a code of conduct for board members. Document the duties and responsibilities that are expected of them including meeting attendance. State what the consequences are for violating the rules.
- Require trial periods for new people who have an interest in getting involved in running the HOA. Your HOA can set a probationary period before someone is officially a board member. Another option is to have them serve on a committee first to determine if they would be a good fit. Remember, it is much harder to get rid of a problem board member than it is to prevent them from being one. I realize that many HOAs have a serious problem trying to find anyone to volunteer to be a board member, but try not to be so desperate that you end up with a problem board member.
- Have board members sign a contract that they understand the rules and responsibilities expected of a board member. This way they cannot later claim they didn’t know the rule or that the rule did not exist.
- Create processes for removing board members and add that to your bylaws.
- Set term limits. This gets “fresh meat” so to speak on the board. There are drawbacks to term limits of course. If you have an awesome board member you hate to have them step down because they are term-limited. Also, in some HOAs it may be very difficult to get someone else to fill the spot. It’s best to have staggered terms, so you always have someone on the board with some institutional knowledge.
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