Nonprofit Boardroom Elephants and the ‘Nice Guy’ Syndrome: A Complex Problem
By: Eugene Fram
An updated and revised viewer favorite post
At coffee a friend serving on a nonprofit board reported plans to resign from the board shortly. His complaints centered on the board’s unwillingness to take critical actions necessary to help the organization grow.
In specific, the board failed to take any action to remove a director who wasn’t attending meetings, but he refused to resign. His term had another year to go, and the board had a bylaws obligation to summarily remove him from the board. However, a majority of directors decided such action would hurt the director’s feelings. They were unwittingly accepting the “nice-guy” approach in place of taking professional action.
In another instance the board refused to sue a local contractor who did not perform as agreed. The “elephant” was that the board didn’t think that legally challenging a local person was appropriate, an issue raised by an influential director. However, nobody informed the group that in being “nice guys,” they could become legally liable, if somebody became injured as a result of their inaction.
Over the years, I have observed many boards with elephants around that have caused significant problems to a nonprofit organization. Some include: (more…)