“Problem” Board Members and How to Deal with Them

In an ideal world, the Board of Trustees would be a strong but fair force in a Community Association, ensuring that all residents are content at all times and that every aspect of the Association functions smoothly. In reality, things can be a lot more complicated. Everything from troublemaking residents to financial issues can cause discord in the community and leave board members feeling as though they’re unable to serve homeowners to the best of their ability.

It isn’t only external forces that have an effect on the efficiency and functionality of the board. Sometimes it’s the board members themselves that are the root cause of community problems, which can make it all the more awkward or challenging to come to a clear, workable solution. Reduce the risk of conflict while addressing the “problem” board member with a few simple strategies.

What Makes a “Problem” Board Member, Anyway?

No matter how amiable a board might be, disagreement between members is inevitable. The board is responsible for making decisions about money, construction, and other important issues within the community — ones that often require a lot of discussion and forethought to execute properly. On top of that, the dedicated and honest personality types that are best suited for board service are more likely to have strong opinions about what is best for the community, which is usually a good sign that they’re invested in the community’s success.

In short, one heated argument or dispute between a board member and fellow board members or other residents usually isn’t enough to consider that person a real threat to the community’s ability to function. However, if a board member is constantly overstepping the limits of their job duties, acting independently from the rest of the board, or creating a hostile, antagonistic atmosphere, it might be time to take action to deal with that individual.

Talk It Out

While this might not seem like a drastic enough solution in the face of an unpleasant or unproductive board member, simply approaching the offending individual and clearly explaining to them the ways in which their behavior is affecting the entire community might be enough to cause a change in attitude. Perhaps the “problem” board member was simply stressed about something else in their life, like an unruly child at home or problems with their boss, and was unknowingly taking that stress and annoyance out on other board members.

Additionally, newer board members might still be struggling to learn the responsibilities and limitations of their new position, especially if they haven’t been properly prepared and trained for success. These types of members might just need a little bit of educational guidance to get back on track.

Some Association boards might deem it best for all members to confront the offending individual as a unified group. Other communities might consider tasking a board member with the closest relationship to the offending individual to have this discussion more privately. This can serve to ease embarrassment and help the board member in question feel less like they’re being attacked.

Drastic Measures

Unfortunately, not all issues with troublemaking board members can be hashed out in a frank and good-natured discussion. If the offending board member reacts negatively to any attempts at creating a dialogue, continually regresses back into the same damaging patterns of behavior, or has committed a major transgression, such as stealing Association funds or picking a physical fight with another board member or homeowner, the situation might require more serious action.

Looking to the governing documents as well as any state rules related to Association functions is a good place to start. These may provide a guide as to the kinds of board member behavior deemed unacceptable, as well as insight into the steps a board can legally take in reprimanding that individual. This can range from stripping that board member of certain duties or titles to removing that person from their position on the board altogether, either by asking that person to step down or calling a vote for their removal. Before considering such drastic action, however, it’s important to consider the cost versus the benefits. Board positions typically come with term limits, and sometimes simply waiting out a problem board member’s term and proposing a fresh, new candidate come election time is the best way to deal with the issue peacefully.

No matter what, it’s important to remember that, even if a board member is forced out of the governing body of the Association, this person will still be a part of the community at large, and should therefore be treated with care and respect to avoid any further conflict or bad blood. With an honest, patient, and thoughtful approach to dealing with a difficult board member, an Association is better prepared to function efficiently no matter what.