Barbara Bull, chapter development, director
Katie Cammer, chapter development, senior manager
HBA continues to grow and expand its reach. Much of the work achieved by the organization is driven by dedicated volunteers who give their time and energy to advance the HBA mission. Like any professional environment, volunteers may face challenges arising from interpersonal conflict with one another or differences in opinion. While those conflicts can often be resolved independently and without residual issues, at times a conflict is so great that it has the potential to threaten the productivity and culture of the individuals, chapters, or the larger HBA.
As the organization grows, the potential for these conflicts grows as well. In conjunction with association best practices and the HBA’s efforts to decrease volunteer workload and increase leadership acumen as part of the new operating model, the HBA is recommending that we introduce additional resources to the existing volunteer removal procedures.
The new resource is a standing Mediation Committee that will assist volunteer leaders and members across the association to deal with conflicts in a productive and respectful manner.
Mediation committee details
The mediation committee will be a standing committee of seasoned HBA volunteers reporting to the HBA CCP chair and HBA Central staff director chapter care.
Their role is to support board members (at the central or chapter level) to resolve their volunteer, member and board conflicts, and to facilitate resolution before the conflict reaches the point of taking more significant measures, such as calling for the resignation or removal of a director or officer.
The committee is an essential step in the process but the committee’s decision is not binding and is provided as helpful advice to assist the leaders experiencing conflict. While not binding, there is as strong recommendation on the part of the organization’s leadership that the committee’s guidance is followed.
First step in utilizing mediation support
Upon reaching an impasse that warrants a more concerted conflict resolution effort, members of the volunteer group or board in question should notify the staff director of chapter care or the council of chapter presidents (CCP) chair that they are seeking assistance and support. This written notice should include a brief description of the main issues and the efforts that have already been taken to attempt to resolve the situation.
Staff will review the notice, provide relevant information back to the volunteer group/board on relevant association procedures and best practices that could be useful, and suggests one of the following approaches:
- Request that the parties continue their own efforts to resolve the conflict if progress appears to be underway;
- Refer the issue to the Mediation Committee;
- Refer the issue to legal counsel if there is an immediate legal concern that is outside the scope of the association.
Note: Staff’s role is to facilitate resolution; not to approve or authorize any specific course of action.
Mediation committee process
In the case that the Mediation Committee’s help is warranted, the following process has been designed to support the timely support of the conflict. Adjustments to this process will be made to best meet the needs of the situation.
Leaders experiencing the conflict submit relevant documentation to explain their situation to the committee (in general, this should not exceed a few pages).
A member (or members) of the mediation committee will speak with each member involved in the conflict individually (in person or via phone, skype, etc.) To understand the situation and the parties’ preferred solution.
The mediation committee will facilitate a joint session with all parties (when possible the best practice would be to meet in-person) to develop a shared understanding of the issues so the parties can identify and ideally agree to solutions and next steps.
Steps two (2) and three (3) may be repeated as deemed necessary by the mediation committee based on the severity of the conflict and the willingness of the volunteers experiencing the conflict to stay in the mediation process.
The mediation committee issues a written recommendation shared with all parties on how to move forward.
As the purpose of this process is to help facilitate conflict resolution, the proceedings and the recommendations are confidential to those involved, the CCP chair, staff director of chapter care, the CEO and the HBA board chair. In the instance when there may be legal implications, the HBA executive committee and possibly the board of directors may need to be notified.
The mediation committee process ends with their recommendation. At that point, the volunteers experiencing the conflict are strongly encouraged to follow the recommendations of the mediation committee, and to work to implement a resolution to their conflict. The parties may decide however to progress to the existing Procedures for HBA Board Member Removal as noted in the HBA bylaws to formally remove the board member(s).
Mediation committee charter
Per the association’s Conflict Resolution Policy and Procedures, the association shall create and maintain a Mediation Committee based on the provisions of this policy.
The purpose of this committee is to support board members (at the central or chapter level) to resolve their own internal volunteer, member or board conflicts, and to facilitate resolution of board conflicts before they reach the point of serious actions, such as calling for the resignation or removal of a director or officer.
First steps for counseling is to attempt to manage the conflict at the chapter/affiliate or regional level with coaching and mentoring the parties involved in the conflict to arrive at an agreed upon solution.
The committee shall be comprised of three volunteers who have served, or are currently serving, on an HBA board at the chapter or global level. Committee members should be well versed in the association’s policies, bylaws, governance procedures, and operating culture and have a proven track record of sound judgement and stellar leadership skills.
Term of service
Committee members shall be appointed by the HBA board chair and the HBA chief executive officer and will serve a three-year term that can be renewed at the discretion of the HBA chief executive officer. The terms will be staggered so that a new 3-year term will be appointed annually.
A member of the chapter care staff team will be assigned to the committee and communicate regularly with the committee and participate in committee activities where appropriate.
Role and authority
The role of the mediation committee is to provide facilitation, advice, and support to parties in conflict, with the ultimate goal of helping the parties themselves to resolve their own conflict.
In providing service to the parties in conflict, the committee may request information from the parties, share relevant information with the parties, facilitate conversations, give feedback, and make recommendations. The committee is not responsible for resolving the conflict, but rather provides a written recommendation for resolution.
The parties agree to go through the mediation process until the committee deems that the issue is resolved or the parties decide to progress to the formal removal of the board member(s) as per HBA removal policies.
Conflict of interest
Committee members must notify the staff liaison immediately if they have any existing relationships or interests with the parties in a particular conflict that would interfere with their neutrality, so they can be excused from that particular process. In this case, a third committee member will be appointed by the HBA CEO.
Procedures for HBA board member removal
In cases of board member conflict, the first step is for the board/parties to attempt to resolve the issue directly, including engaging the association’s Mediation Committee as appropriate.
If mediation efforts fail, and the board member in question does not wish to resign from the board, and the board remains resolved to remove the board member, then the board will call a special meeting to address the issue, per the bylaws.
Prior to calling the meeting, those who intend to call the meeting should consult staff to advise them on their course of action and to ensure they are in compliance with all local, state, and federal statutes.
The board president, the executive committee, or 25% of the board members may call for a special meeting, and must provide at least five (5) days’ written notice or two (2) days’ personal notice to all board members as to the purpose of the meeting, per the bylaws.
The board member in question must be given the opportunity to address the board prior to a vote being called, with a time limit specified to the board member in advance of the meeting to allow them to prepare comments. After the board member in question has given his or her comments, he or she should be asked to leave the meeting.
After establishing quorum and stating the purpose of the meeting, the discussion and voting on the issue should be done in executive session.