How to Disarm a Disgruntled Member

By: Eric Duchinsky, CAE

Three tips on keeping a disruptive member from running wild. [Titled "Disgruntled No More" in the print edition.]

In the age of social media, a disgruntled member can be a major, public thorn in your side. Don't let bad emotions simmer. Instead, respond swiftly:

Be direct and open. Backroom discussions, subtle confrontations, and other passive-aggressive reactions will not solve the problem. Shine a bright light on it and prove the organization can handle hiccups. There will always be hiccups.

Understand emotions. Like any customer service issue, a disruptive member's concern may have a high level of emotion attached. A logical argument won't satisfy an emotional fit. Help the member relax and lead you to a logical solution.

Look to your member ethics policy. The key to finding a satisfactory solution turns on if the member wants something more than just to cause trouble. If the member's concern is worth setting up a panel to review the grievance, do it, document it, run it fairly, and move on. A good conflict management seminar for your board or even an independent mediator might help.

Eric Duchinsky, MS, CAE, is executive director of the Labor and Employment Relations Association in Champaign, Illinois. Email: [email protected]

Eric Duchinsky, CAE