Etiquette for Board Members When Disagreeing

Board members who argue disrespectfully call into question their privilege of serving.
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Serving on a board of directors is an honorable privilege. Behaving in a manner that's inappropriate for mature, rational and dignified professionals can be offensive to fellow board members as well as embarrassing. When board members disagree, they express their respective views candidly, but with tact. To do otherwise may cast a negative light on the board and the organization it supports.

1 Review the Record

If the disagreement concerns board meeting minutes or action taken that the secretary of the board recorded, members may ask to review the meeting minutes to settle disputes. This avoids arguments about who said what, because the meeting minutes are deemed official records of a board of directors. Proper etiquette also dictates that board members shouldn't shout, or use foul or accusatory language. Some boards have specific policies for addressing disagreements, such as submitting them to the president of the board or the membership chairperson, particularly if the disagreement points to lack of integrity or suitability of either member to remain a board member.

2 Squelch Hostile Remarks

For agreements that get out of hand, consult "Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised" -- usually just referred to as "Robert's Rules," the widely accepted standard for parliamentary procedure. According to Robert's Rules, the sergeant-at-arms acts to resolve disagreements between members because she is responsible for maintaining order during board meetings. If your board doesn't adhere to Robert's Rules, this may be an ideal time to adopt them.

Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.