Well, we all know it happens. Though we may not want to talk about it OR talk about it incessantly, the fact remains – some boards just don’t get along.
So, what do we do when this happens? What do we do as a volunteer who sits on a board and bears witness time and again to arguments or passive aggressive jabs or out-and-out fighting between our colleagues? It’s a difficult place to be in.
Perhaps you are the instigator, observer, or collaborator – it really doesn’t matter which role you assume – drama sucks the happy out of a board.
If you find yourself in this situation, there are a few things you may want to consider and, when and where appropriate, act on:
1. Don’t take sides like it’s your grade school playground and you’re going to take your ball home. Petulance doesn’t serve anyone, especially your board director peers.
2. Encourage calm conversations. Perhaps suggest a 2-minute time limit for comments and roundtables. Two minutes of uninterrupted time to give your opinion and share your thoughts could be just what is needed for clarity.
3. Bring back to task. Why are you all there in the first place? What’s the mission you are trying to accomplish? What are your values? What is your vision? Oftentimes board difficulties can be alleviated if the situation is brought back to task.
Success can come in many ways. One of the ways I like to diffuse conflict is by reframing. For example, instead of saying “Brenda is fed up and ready to quit because no one else is stepping up to volunteer at our fundraising BBQ’s” I reframe and say “Brenda is fatigued from volunteering her time so much. We don’t want her or any other volunteer to succumb to volunteer burn-out. How can we support her and our organization? Do we need to review how we source our volunteers? Do we need to make changes to our volunteer program? In the meantime, how can we hold a successful BBQ? We all know we need the funds we’ll raise.”
Quite the difference between the two approaches, isn’t there? The former is terse and accusatory. Even if true, the tone and words used result in a defensive position to anyone listening. It’s the kind of language that ‘gets our back up,’ so to speak.
The latter approach allows for compassion and problem-solving. That’s where we want to be with our board director peers.
For more real-life instigations and how to reframe them in positive ways to cut down on board angst, download our resource sheet. We’ve also included a do and don’t section. I hope you find this resource useful and encourage you to let me know if you try them and how things went.
….blog by Beth Harding