You Might Have a Dysfunctional Board If...

Note: Every single item below comes from a true story shared with me since I wrote about Post Traumatic Board Member Disorder, or PTBMD for short. Sadly, dysfunctional boards are an epidemic. I'm on a mission to fix that.

Here are a choice few:

  • If you're in serious financial trouble and a board member asks if at the next meeting you can do better than Subway for lunch... you might have a dysfunctional board.

  • If you're the Executive Director and you're negotiating your salary and several board members tell you that, "The gratification for all the good work should be compensation aplenty,"... you might have a dysfunctional board.
  • If your board members refuse to come to your events unless they have speaking roles. If you constantly catch board members playing Candy Crush during board meetings. If you've heard a board member actually say, outloud, "I'm afraid my mother will be mad at me if I ask her to make a donation,"... you might have a dysfunctional board.
  • If board members ask for comp tickets to your annual fundraising gala... you might have a dysfunctional board.
  • If at your last board meeting someone suggests the agenda be sent ahead of time. But it was. And she even brought it with her... you might have a dysfunctional board.
  • If members miss board meetings but post about an event they went to at the same time on Facebook. If board members can't remember the name of your Director of Development, even though she's presented to the board many times. If you have to constantly remind certain board members which committees they're on... you might have a dysfunctional board.
  • If a board member pledged a bunch of money many months ago but never cut the check and then you see his name listed as a leading donor for another organization. If a board member joins the board of a competing organization and can't see any conflict of interest. Or if a board member starts a competing organization but refuses to resign and the rest of the board is too chicken to push her out... you might have a dysfunctional board.
  • And finally, if your board member negotiates a merger with another organization, but he isn't the chair, doesn't serve on any committee, and has not authority whatsoever to do so... yes, my friends, you might have a dysfunctional board.
  • OK, so maybe I am being just a bit harsh. After all, I firmly believe that most people join boards because they sincerely want to do good and are willing to volunteer time to work with others to make the world a better place. What's better than that?

    But I can tell you from my own experience as a board member, it's frightfully easily how dysfunction can set in. There was that time, for example, when I voted in favor of a motion I didn't actually agree with because I was distracted posting adorable photos of myself to Facebook. Or the time I attempted to illustrate how smart I was by asking a zinger question only to find out the question had already been answered hours ago. I'm as guilty as anybody.

    So, now it's your turn. Have any great stories to share? If you're willing to be public about them, please share in the comments. Or, if not, you can share them privately here and let me know if it's OK for me to write about them anonymously.

    You just might find it therapeutic.