Dear Blue Avocado: I'm the chair of a nonprofit board and I have a problem. We recently voted to support a local measure that would change some zoning regulations in our county. This board member -- I'll call him "Joe" -- was outvoted (he was the only one to vote against it). The staff wrote up our position and put it on our website. Now Joe won't stop emailing the staff and telling them to change a sentence or add something or even to take it down. The staff is spending hours talking with him on the phone about it. What do I do?
Dear Board Chair:
You already know that you have to stop his behavior. The question is how.
You need to send two clear messages: one to Joe and one to the staff. In a phone call followed up with an email, let Joe know the following:
But what if Joe says, "I'm not acting as a board member! I'm acting as a concerned citizen of this county"? You probably know how to respond: we welcome comments from all concerned citizens, and such comments should and will be brought to our board where the decision was made.
Having these conversations with Joe won't be easy or fun. You may be thinking something like, "I didn't volunteer to be on this board to have people acting out on me!" But that's what leadership is: responding appropriately to whatever comes up and using the moment to set a tone of respect, integrity, and accountability. Go for it.
See also in Blue Avocado:
Jan Masaoka is the publisher of Blue Avocado and the author of Best of the Board Cafe Second Edition, which compiles dozens of short, practical articles about boards -- grounded in an unconventional framework. She has been in the shoes of both this board member and a board member acting out, she's sorry to say.