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July 01, 2013

Ask Maria - Dysfunctional board

What you can do to better manage board meetings

Maria Bartolotti

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Dear Maria: Help… I’m currently serving on a small self-managed Condo Board that has differing positions on every issue. The Board argues almost every point, there is lack of trust among the directors and things that need to be done for the best interest of the corporation are not getting done. I’m afraid that if we do not come together as a Board soon, our building may suffer the consequences. What can we do?

It is sad, but as a condo director you wear several hats and must have leathery-tough skin, because that’s what is required in dealing with diverse personalities, including bullies. As managers, we know this well. Here are some tips to help you deal with this type of situation.

1. Boards can establish codes of conduct for their board meetings which could curtail bullying behaviour:

• Limit the length of time for each speaker.

• No abusive language or insulting remarks against anyone.

• No personal attacks.

• No yelling or interruptions when someone is speaking or during the meeting.

• It is important to put the code of conduct in writing and circulate a copy to each Board member.

2. As a director, you know that words can easily be misunderstood, personalities clash, and not all individuals will see reason in what you say. Taking the following steps may help alleviate some of the stress and pressure that might come from having to deal with difficult people:

• Address the issue immediately in a non-confrontational manner. Ignoring the situation does not make it go away, it may make it worse.

• Be willing to accommodate, if possible.

• Agree to disagree. If you cannot establish some common ground, move on, no need to argue about it endlessly.

• State in a clear manner that abuse, insults, threatening remarks or yelling will not be tolerated and that discussions can be held when both parties are calm and relaxed.

• Don’t try to rush the situation, be patient and let them work through the problem with you.

• Keep in mind that not all behaviours can be controlled. If you fear for your safety, contact the proper authorities.

As a self managed board, having procedures in place to deal with complaints, concerns and abuse is essential.

If personality conflicts arise at Board level, the board may want to consider hiring a management company to take over the day to day functions of running the condominium corporation, or hire a mediator to help guide and facilitate discussions among the Board members. This could help the Board get back on track with managing the condominium corporation.

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