The Toxic Board Memeber


I’m able to speak freely here because the board member I would love to see resign knows who he is. This board member needs no resources, no tools and no advice on how to approach board service, he’s got it covered. Well at least he thinks he does, the reality is in fact very different.

The problem is that this board member is toxic. Harsh? Yes, but the truth often is. That’s also the word a lot of people in the community have been using – not just me.

I know you’re anxious for my “Easy steps that a board board member (or community member) can follow to fire a toxic board member.” I’m really sorry to disappoint you though because I don’t have any steps, but I do have some ideas.

Do you know how to fire a board member? If you do, please comment below because I’m dying to know your recipe.

So why am I bothering with this post? Because identifying the toxic Board Member goes a long way to helping them out the door.


You might be laughing. I don’t need a list, you’re thinking. Anyone can see that this board member is toxic.

Not so. In fact this particular board member still has a few followers, and supporters. People who fall into one of two categories. They either refuse to open their eyes to the facts and the truth, or they are helping to spread the lies and dishonesty that got this Toxic board member elected in the first place.

Here’s how to know if a toxic board member is bringing you down.

– The toxic board member rolls his eyes at least once at every meeting, (i.e. wildly disrespectful of other board members and staff) and often has outbursts.
– The toxic board member refuses to answer questions of any sort no matter how non-confrontational the questions might be.
– The toxic board member cares more about power than the mission, or in this case the loss of power.
– The toxic board member complains loudly about financial obligations and would make a motion or place a vote against any of those obligations if it furthered his cause.
– The toxic board member never has any questions about any of the items he almost always votes against.
– The toxic board member is MIA, and you often pray that the toxic board member will be.

OK, so you have now established that the toxic board member really is toxic. How do we make him go away?


So I’m sorry to report that you can’t actually fire a board member. There is policy in place, but it’s difficult to execute.

However, all hope is not lost, and there is a few options. First, you can secure The toxic board member’s resignation or second (the more common strategy) you can manage the toxic board member out.


This happens only in the most egregious of situations. Egregious situations may include (but are certainly not limited to):

– Fraudulent activities.
– Revealing confidential information to the public. (Sounds like a subject that has come up a few times.)

In any of these situations, revealing the egregious action to the board would be an extreme embarrassment to the toxic board member and securing a resignation should be fairly straightforward.

I didn’t say easy. I said straightforward.


Here’s how I think of it. Instead of dumping the whole bucket of water on the Wicked Witch of the West, just pour slowly.

In an intentional and strategic way, the Board Chair and the CEO must work steadily to reduce the toxic board member’s power, minimizing his influence step by step until he disappears (resigns).


– Board Chair and CEO must be on exactly the same page. The toxic board member must go and they both agree that it will take longer than either will like. They also must agree that each of them will have an extra burden of work until the toxic board member is gone.
– Secure Other Allies. Board Chair and CEO go through the board list. Make sure everyone understands what is going on, and the impact it may have on the boards productivity. If they agree secure their commitment to speak up so that the Board Chair and the CEO are not the only bad guys when the toxic board member goes off. What’s happening here is that the Board Chair is building a support team. The Board as a group is also made stronger during this process.
– Board Meeting Agenda: Roles and Responsibilities. Now that the support/team has been built, the Board Chair can add some discussion to a board meeting either reminding folks of their roles and responsibilities or better yet, adding one or two that the toxic board member will completely disagrees with. This is in all actuality an attempt to gain better access into the toxic board members way of making decisions, and thought process. He will hopefully see that he is terribly out of step and no one is understanding him. The toxic board member has no allies, and will most likely respond with a few outbursts, but with no actual answers to the questions. The toxic board member melts, and will possibly storm out of the room.

In a perfect world The toxic board member would resign, but this is reality not a perfect world. He is a toxic board member not because of his care for what is the right course of action for his community, but because of his self serving activities.


A few more board members have stepped up and assumed new responsibilities and roles. The Board Chair can feel enormous pride that she/he took real responsibility for the effectiveness of the board. Every board member will understand what happened and every single board member will be thankful for the outcome, and have grown as a group from carrying the same banner together under a new cause. It will bring them together as a team and allow them to work better as a cohesive group.

Board Chair and CEO can now dissect how The toxic board member got onto the board to begin with. Share the lessons learned and adjust to minimize the likelihood of it happening again.

I wrote this a number of years ago for a different issue, but I was surprised at how appropriatly it applies. I think when using it in this situation we can all very easily correctly pick the “Toxic Board Member” at the center of these ideas.


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