Dealing with a rogue board member creates turmoil and dysfunction within an organization and can be a tricky situation to resolve. In this podcast I talk with Laurie Wolf, MNPL, CFRE – the Vice President/COO of The Foraker Group – about how to identify, deal with and prevent rogue board members. Laurie gives training’s on nonprofit governance, strategic planning and resource development. She was selected as one of the “Top 40 under 40” leaders in Alaska by the Chamber of Commerce in 2005.
Definition of a Rogue Board Member
A rogue board member is a board member who uses their authority outside the jurisdiction of the board as a whole. Often their actions are no longer serving the better good of the organization but instead our based on a personal agenda and what they feel is “right” for the organization. Rogue board member behavior can manifest in many ways but commonly targets the organizations Executive Director. This can result in staff feeling bullied and/or abused by the rogue member.
Signs You Have a Rogue Board Member
Micro-managing staff, board meetings become full of surprises, adversarial behavior (including playing devil’s advocate), knit-picking executive director decisions, often loudest board member, member yields more power than other members (remember all board members should have equal power), executive director (and other board members) begin feeling bullied.
How to Deal with a Rogue Board Member
Talking directly with someone that demonstrates hostility and unpredictability is challenging. But not addressing the situation can lead to a passive-aggressive situation where some type of “explosion” can happen at an inappropriate time and/or location. Do your best to deal with a rogue board situations as soon as possible. Here are some suggested steps to take:
- Talk to the Member: Directly communicate with the board member. This should be a non-confrontational conversation focused on listening and relationship building.
- Involve the Board Chair: Go to your board chair (unless your chair is the rogue member) and let them know about the situation. The board chair should then have a peer-to-peer discussion with the rogue member to determine the nature of the behavior and possibly help the rogue member adjust their behavior in accordance with proper board governance.
- Have a Conference Meeting: If behavior continues, again inform the board chair and request the three of you (the rogue member, the board chair and your self) meet to discuss the situation and how to resolve the conflict. This is a good time to brush up on “I statements”. Note: This is not a “secret meeting”. The board president should keep the other board members informed of the situation as it develops.
- Hold an Executive Session: By this time, it is likely the entire board is aware of the situation. The board should an executive session (including the rogue member and possible the executive director) to discuss the situation and try to remedy it
- Removal of Board Member: This is a tough situation, but the board has to do what is best for the health, and in some cases the survival, of the organization. Be sure that your organizations bylaws are followed to the letter.
Risk/Consequences of Having a Rogue Board Member
- Not longer fulfilling mission
- Lose board members
- Lose your executive director and other staff member(s)
- Lose credibility as an organization within your community
- Legal issue (depending on extent of abuse)
- Have a strategic plan and stay focused on mission
- Create board member job descriptions
- Be sure to govern in accordance with your by-laws
- Have a strong Board Development committee focusing on training, recruitment, mentoring
Links & Resources
“Board Bullies”, an article by The Foraker Group CEO/President, Dennis G. McMillian
The Foraker Group Newsletter
The Foraker Group Webpage: www.forakergroup.org
Contact the Foraker Group: www.forakergroup.org/index.cfm/contactformontact