Trouble with a Board Member?

So there you are…sitting with a Board member, who thinks they should be the Executive Director, telling you how you should be doing your job (whatever that may be).

Then there’s the Board member who thinks they are the Editor-in-Chief and calls you every time the e-news goes out to tell you what should have been in the issue (thank goodness you had no typos!)

Oh! There’s the Board member who goes WAY beyond playing Devil’s advocate to actually being the Devil at every Board meeting. Contrarian to every discussion and decision in which the Board is engaged.

Okay, so you get the picture and at some point have actually lived or drawn the picture yourself…or some variation on the theme. What to do? Please see post on focusing the attention of our Board members and keep reading!

Quit – this is NOT an option and we, as nonprofit professionals, are NOT quitters – otherwise we would have found better paying jobs a long time ago. And don’t do anything rash, despite you anger, hurt feelings or numbness. Take a walk, get a coffee, go into the bathroom to cry/yell/scream into a wad of paper towels. Don’t let this get to you, you have bigger work ahead.

Refocus – Ah, now that will get us somewhere. Refocus the energy (lest I say enthusiasm?) of aforesaid Board member. And remember to smile!

  • Telling you how to do your job? – In the Art of Giving Great Service workshop by ZingTrain, it is always about the customer. First let’s get to the bottom of the problem. Allow the venting to go and see what you can do to help. Honestly, I know some people are NEVER satisfied and just want to vent at YOU. But letting them know you are listening and hearing them really calms them because they have nowhere to go. Then – let’s politely refocus the conversation. And this should be done by ANY staff member – program or fundraising. How is the Board work going on fundraising? Has this Board member had the time to develop or update their list of contacts? Perhaps you can help them with this small task? And after they leave, be sure to let the Executive Director* know what happened and how you handled it.
  • Playing the quarterback with 20-20 hindsight – Again they want to be heard. So let them go, take notes, let them know you heard them. Do you have a communications or marketing committee? Ask if they would like to serve or volunteer to WRITE the program, client or donor highlights for the e-news? Articles are due every two weeks for review by the Executive Director before it is sent to your list of 5,500. Honestly, if they take you up on it, another item off your plate. But they probably won’t. Again, let the Executive Director know*.
  • Devil ain’t wearing Prada – This is a bigger issue Board and staff leadership need to tackle. A sit down is in order – in person – PDQ. This Board member can derail all the plans, all the time. And if it is frustrating you, I can assure you, it is more frustrating to the Board members who are attempting to move things forward and volunteering their time. See my blog post on setting expectations.

At no time, for no reason should any person, employed anywhere be subjected to abusive language. That should be in the Employee and Board handbooks – and everyone should know that would/could/should be cause for dismissal as an employee or Board member. We are people, people! Let’s treat each other like we want to be treated – we’re just trying to do a little good in the world…right?

*As a side note, if the Executive Director and/or Board Chair see no problem with ANY of these scenarios, start looking for another job (don’t resign till you have one). And when interviewing, now you know better questions to ask about how the Board functions, supports the organization and staff and how your role interfaces with the Board. See you can always make lemonade!

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