The headline of a recent Walpole, Massachusetts newspaper article reads: “Fight between Walpole selectmen cuts meeting short.” The first sentence of the article stated, “Selectmen came to verbal blows on Tuesday night, prompting other board members to cut the meeting short as two of their colleagues took the altercation outside.”
Board Meetings Gone Wild
It sounds like it could have been from an episode of a fictitious reality show entitled ‘Board Meetings Gone Wild,’ where viewers watch meetings that are out of control, overlong, unproductive or, as in this case, downright hostile. Even comedian Dave Barry said of meetings, “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be 'meetings.'”
The scary part is that this is reality. In some cases, board meetings turn into ‘verbal blows’ and, in some extreme cases, physical confrontations. Board meetings can get very heated. Different ideas, differences of opinion and different agendas can cause so much stress in a meeting where people want to give their opinions, solve problems, make decisions, vote and get back home to their families. As a result, board meetings should have a protocol or policy in place for when things get a little tense and tempers start to flare out of control.
Building managers who have been on the job long enough have seen it all. The good news, they say, is that with adequate preparation and by following the proper rules of order, just about every meeting an association holds can be run without a hitch.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
The biggest cause of disruption in meetings is dissension among association members. While differences of opinion are unavoidable—and can lead to positive changes when they're managed proactively and effectively—unproductive bickering and a great deal of acrimony can be circumvented by keeping owners in the loop on any and all issues long before the night of the meeting.