Around 30% of Directors have experienced a boardroom dispute that affected the survival of their organisation as suggested by a recent CEDR/ IFC survey – so what do you do if this happens in your organization?  Here are a few strategies to consider…


  1. Have a Process to Manage Conflict: Ideally, your organization will have an agreed mechanism for working through differences or crises before you need them!  These could include; clarifying the roles and responsibilities of management and the board, a code of conduct for directors and a dispute resolution process.
  2. Develop the ‘Soft Skills’ of your Board: Train board members in the arts of having difficult conversations, negotiation skills and dealing with different personalities.  On an individual level this also means balancing inquiry and advocacy, checking your assumptions, being aware of your own filters and separating impact from intent when you participate in discussions inside and outside of the boardroom.
  3. Get to the Issue: Before jumping in to resolve a conflict, try to understand the issue and its source.  Conflict can arise when there are differences in data, interests, structure, values and relationships.  Is there a personality clash, a power struggle or a passionately held point of view getting in the way of clear and open communication?
  4. Seek Help: Outside advice on managing conflict and on mediating during conflict can be essential to bringing successful resolution.  An experienced external facilitator/ mediator who is independent and does not have a stake in the outcome can be extremely helpful in guiding the discussion process.
  5. Improve or Remove: If the strategies outlined above have not resolved your conflict, it may be time to make the difficult decision about whether the best course of action is for one party to leave.  In the long term the ongoing damage caused by ongoing infighting is likely to be less than the short term pain of an unplanned exit.


Sarah Morton-Johnson

August 2015