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How to Handle Troublesome Behavior in the Boardroom

Note: iProtean, now part of Veralon editorial staff will be on vacation through Labor Day. Look for the next blog/newsletter September 6.)


(From a recent interview with Karma Bass, Via Healthcare Consulting)


When fellow board members exhibit disruptive or troublesome behavior in the boardroom, they often don’t see it that way; that is, people don’t realize they’re being disruptive. They may believe that the ends justify the means, so they don’t realize that the way their message is being conveyed is really causing some pretty significant problems for the rest of the board.


Some suggestions about how to handle this include:

  • Get to know the person one-on-one to provide an opportunity to express his/her point of view.
  • Put yourself in their shoes to understand their motivations.
  • Look at the larger group dynamics—ensure no one feels isolated.
  • Find areas of agreement for the entire board and work from there.
  • Don’t attack troublesome board members, or tell them publicly that they are wrong, even when it feels like they are attacking you.


It may get to a point where additional strategies should be considered. For example,

  • Checking board job descriptions for requirements for behavior in the boardroom; that is, statements about expected behavior and decorum.
  • Having one-on-one conversations about how to meet those expectations of board member behavior


There will be some cases where you just simply have to take steps, albeit painful, to help somebody understand this is not the right fit for them. The board member may be a brilliant person, committed to the mission of the organization, but just simply is not someone that works well in a group setting. And board members must be willing to work collaboratively. At this point, the board should consult legal counsel about options in the bylaws for having someone removed from the board.


The board, not the CEO or legal counsel, must deal with this issue. If the board actually takes ownership of the issue, it really will make a difference. It’s not a quick fix and it’s not necessarily comfortable for everybody throughout the entire process. But when a board member hears information that his or her behavior is not in line with what other board members would like to see, it imposes a sort of peer pressure, and can have amazing results. If the board explains its behavior expectations, if it’s made clear what behavior is not within those expectations, and if the board is consistent in reminding their colleague that his/her behavior is not acceptable, many times the board member will actually remove him/herself from the board.



Check your library for the advanced Finance Course, Financial Risks & Strategic Implications of APMs, featuring Marian Jennings and Seth Edwards. In this course, Marian and Seth discuss the financial risks of ACOs and bundled payments, the strategic risks of not participating in an alternative payment model, clear trends and the characteristics of organizations that have successfully implemented one or more alternative payment models.


Coming soon: Strategic Issues for Boards featuring speakers on cyber security and the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.



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