Wherever there are person-person interactions, there is potential conflict. Conflict in the boardroom may be a result of rivalry, misunderstanding, or the need for resources to get the work done. Two types of conflict may occur on a board, task conflict or relationship conflict. Task conflict
is a perception of disagreement between group members or individuals about the content of their decisions, differences in viewpoints, and opinions. Relationship conflict
is a perception of interpersonal incompatibility and may include annoyance and animosity among individuals.
If conflict occurs openly in the boardroom, it could be perceived as healthy since it may contribute to effective performance. If it continues after the board meeting, it may be perceived as unhealthy and can have destructive effects such as restrictive communication and decreased cohesiveness, and may hinder performance. Constructive conflict often improves decision making, stimulates creativity, encourages interest, provides a forum to release tension, and fosters change. Regardless of the conflict, it is important to always strive to create and maintain good relationships. Trust is essential for board members to engage in unfiltered, and constructive debate of ideas.
“To build this critical trust, prioritize communication, teamwork and transparency,” notes Melissa A. Fitzpatrick, MSN, RN, FAAN, president of Kirby Bates Associates and the first-ever nurse to serve on the Board of UNC Rex Healthcare and its Quality, Patient Safety, and HR Committee. “When facing conflict, live your values, role model grace and the attitude you hope to see in others, communicate honestly and surround yourself with the best and the brightest so that you can find the path forward together.”
5 ways to proactively manage conflict while on a board
- Ask about formal procedures to resolve conflict or grievances issues.
- Keep comments and discussions aligned with the board’s purpose, objectives, and plans.
- Encourage and model active listening to prevent misunderstandings that may impact decision-making.
- Participate in educational offerings to build your collaborative skills and trust with others.
- Use the appropriate conflict management style based on the situation. This may include accommodating, avoiding, collaborating, competing, and compromising.
Friend, M. L. (2021). Power and Conflict. In D. L. Huber and M/L. Joseph (Ed.), Leadership & nursing care management (7th ed., pp.175-208). Elsevier.
Thakore, D. (2013). Conflict and conflict management. IOSR Journal of Business and Management (IOSR-JBM), 8(6), 07-16.