The headline of a recent Walpole, Massachusetts newspaper article read: “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.”
It sounds like it could have been from an episode of a reality show called 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 devolve 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.
Jill Dennard has been a board member of her condo association’s board since 2011. She describes some of their monthly board meetings as ‘contentious,’ but stops far short from comparing it to a Jerry Springer-type battle with punches and chairs flying across the room.
“However, it’s stressful to go to board meetings with your armor on,” she says. “Nobody is going to sucker-punch you, but the stress and anxiety is enough. It doesn’t give you motivation to stay on the board. I don’t think board members are appreciated.”