Owners seem stunned while witnessing their board, yelling, screaming, accusing, name calling, threatening and treating each other with as much disrespect as possible.
As meetings turn ugly, owners wonder how can this board maintain the health of their association.
I wonder if the board deserves all the blame. I’m looking at the role of “outside agitators” within the community. These outside agitators can do great damage to an association. Of course, the board is responsible for how they conduct business. But to ignore the outside agitators is a mistake.
Outside agitators in most cases support only certain board members. They are not bound by the ethical and fiduciary responsibilities of board members.
Think about an association whose board is at war. Were previous boards at war? Is there someone who has remained a constant presence in the background of divisive issues? Is a past board member continuing to wield influence? Does this person describe others as “good” and “evil”?
Outside agitators love to publicize their opinions. They are emboldened by their position of influence. They hurt those they target — all under the guise of caring about the association. They eagerly anticipate the public forum of open board meetings to showcase their opinions and label others as “evil” or “good”. This is their hobby, their entertainment — all at the expense of the well-being of the community.
An outside agitator has had years to improve their game. Like a heckler in a theater, the outside agitator’s constant interjections of advice, exaggerations and falsehoods, rile up board members. Many board members have no idea of the outside agitator’s prejudices, past actions, or subversions. Some outside agitators have held grudges for years, even decades.
Maybe it’s time to give feuding board members a break. Who is really driving the hostility? Who’s always been in the background of many sparring boards?
Outside agitators force a community association to divide into “teams”. If you’re not with them, you’re against them. They will even label you misinformed, stupid or evil. Being neutral, but having opinions on community issues does not satisfy them. Being friendly or cordial with both sides, is unacceptable.
Outside agitators have a major advantage — they cannot be voted away. Their lives are centered around this role, and they will go to extremes to maintain this influence. The best you can do, is try not to fall into their trap. You don’t need to choose a side. You can socialize, even support board members on different sides of issues. Most of all, most people are not “good” or “bad”; or “smart” or “stupid”. Humanity is not that simple and neither are board members.