Posted in Board of Directors

BACon Blog - How To Address Bad Board BehaviorLast week we talked about the necessity of addressing bad board behavior at your association. This week we’ll talk about how to address the behavior.

Association board members who are behaving inappropriately (including sharing confidential information about board deliberations with others, intentionally misrepresenting information so as to advance an issue they care about) will do great damage to the ability of the association board to work as a team as it fulfills its fiduciary obligations in leading the association. This in turn will cause great damage to the association and the members that the association represents.

Handling bad board behavior presents a unique problem since the board member is often a colleague of other board members and addressing colleague behavior is always very difficult. Additionally, you are dealing with an association volunteer and demanding a level of appropriate behavior from a volunteer (versus a paid staff person) can be awkward.

If you have a board member behaving badly, here are the steps to take to address the behavior:

  • Gather evidence. This is usually not very hard to do… proof of the bad behavior is usually right in front of you.
  • Confront them directly with the evidence of their behavior. Do this one-on-one initially. This is a job for the President of the Association, not the CEO, due to the relationship of the board of directors and the CEO. Be direct and unemotional and stick to your guns. You know they are acting inappropriately… let them know that you know.
  • If the behavior persists, confront them directly in front of their colleagues at a board meeting. This should be done during the portion of your board meeting that is not open to the public. Again, direct, no emotion, stick to your guns.
  • If the behavior still persists, remove the board member. You should have in your policies appropriate procedures for the removal of a board member. Included in the policy should be language addressing unethical and inappropriate behavior. Your CEO and legal counsel should be involved at this stage.

Whatever you do, do not ignore the behavior. Don’t develop a “work around” to avoid dealing with the behavior. And don’t address the actions of this individual by conducting a board session on the right behavior as if the issue is the entire board. Address that individual’s behavior and don’t impugn the integrity of the entire board by saying it is a board problem.

Now get to it. Step up and lead. Your association will be better off for your leadership.

John Barnes is President of Barnes Association Consultants. Barnes Association Consultants helps association Boards and CEOs address the wide range of challenges and opportunities facing today’s association leaders. Barnes Association Consultants helps association leaders make their associations better.

John can be reached at or 703.321.6866. For more information about Barnes Association Consultants, go to