Board Battles: 3 Strategies for Resolving Conflict Effectively

As much as we all might want to get along, conflicts often arise in group settings despite everyone’s commitment to shared goals and objectives. This certainly can be the case with association boards.

In our travels, we’ve heard a variety of scenarios that created conflicts between staff and board members or among board members themselves. Ironically the diversity of perspectives that associations strive for in their boards of directors can be a source of conflict.

No matter what the source of the conflicts, most organizations want to resolve them both quickly and effectively. In an article for Dalhousie University College of Continuing Education, E. Grant McDonald offers some excellent suggestions for managing conflicts in volunteer boards. I would like to highlight three here:

  1. In situations where the board chair and/or the executive director are parties in the conflict, an external resource person should be called upon to assist in a mediation role.
  2. Confronting a conflict situation almost always can benefit from face -to-face communication amongst the parties involved, either through a series of meetings with individuals and/or a group meeting involving all of the parties.
  3. Avoid secret meetings; the process needs to be transparent. Inform the whole board and the staff that a conflict resolution process has been undertaken, indicate the steps and who is involved and that the outcome will be reported to them.

Resolving conflict isn’t an easy process, but it can be an effective and well-managed one.