I was recruited for a board position in an organization I have been passionate about for years by our longest serving and most respected members. They nearly fawned over my accomplishments when they drummed up support for me.
I resisted and didn’t think I’d done enough to warrant a board seat. But they said I “made good choices” and that they “trusted my judgment.” Additionally, they said our organization needed to start promoting our younger members. They also promised they would be there as a safety net for me as I learned the ropes.
I agree with these patriarchs on almost every issue, but recently I had to tell them I couldn’t vote the way they wanted me to on one seemingly minor issue, and they’ve all turned against me. One has even threatened to replace me on the board.
What’s going on?
When you were recruited for the position they most likely did admire your abilities and want to support you. Additionally, you showed a great deal of deference to these well-recognized members. They undoubtedly expected you to continue to do so in most if not all circumstances and to display your gratitude for their personal support of your advancement.
Now you pose a threat to the control they have always exercised. Either they had not predicted you would show what they consider is a disappointing lack of understanding and judgment on this issue, or they are reacting poorly to your deviation from their will.
In either event, it is worth seeking the root of their anger with a direct discussion, in the same manner, you met when you were originally recruited. Reassure them of your gratefulness and admiration for them, and attempt to understand their side of the issue. Then assess whether you wish to continue in your role on the board in light of the benefits you can provide to the organization and the personal or professional cost of continued service.
Both parties may gain some understanding from the discussion and move forward positively. If you were only recruited to act as you were told, you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to burn those bridges by making your own decisions or hold on to the relationships at the cost of your conscience.
Jennifer Yuhas is a Senior Consultant/Trainer with Avitus Group/ The Growth Company. She possesses an extensive background in executive coaching, negotiations, liaison work, team building, and group processes. She has led several teams since 1995 and most recently served as the Negotiations Strategy Lead for the Alaska Delegation to the Pacific Salmon Treaty, and the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC) Airspace Planning Negotiations Lead for the Alaska Department of Fish & Game.