Working through difficult board relationships

This guide looks at some of the challenging behaviours which Chairs may have to manage. It offers tips on understanding the causes of difficult behaviour, recognising if your behaviour may be contributing to the problem and how to address confront and resolve the difficulties.

The guide is part of the working with trustees series which also includes Working one-to-one with trustees and Working as a team.


When a group of people is undertaking work that is important to them, it’s almost inevitable that there will be differences of opinion. As Chair, you need to be comfortable with disagreement and find a way to redirect energy and emotion if possible or step in if it is causing damage.

Challenging behaviour could include reluctance to leave the board, being too dominant, tensions and disputes with other trustees, undermining the Chair or sharing information inappropriately. There are some behaviours which should not be tolerated, such as abuse, sexual harassment and financial wrongdoing.

Clear policies and procedures are helpful for preventing and dealing with many difficult behaviours, but in most cases, a candid conversation with the person involved will be required. Whilst these conversations are crucial, they’re not always easy. The guide sets out a number of practical tips to make the task easier, such as, understanding your powers as Chair and being ready to accept criticism.

FBI- Factors Influencing Behaviour

It’s important to understand difficult behaviour. Few of us intend to be difficult and we can feel hurt if we’re given that label. The FBI model is a useful approach to analysing difficult relationships. It looks at the factors influencing behaviour, behaviours themselves and the impact on others.

Free copies for members

A free download copy of the guide is available to all Association of Chairs members and Beacon Programme participants.

You can also download the other titles in the series:

Become a member

Join the Association of Chairs to access this guide, along with a range of other resources, workshops and webinars. Membership costs £50-100 per year (depending on your organisation’s income). Find out more about membership

Are you a Chair or Vice Chair of a small charity in England, with an annual income under £1 million? Join our free Beacon programme to access events, resources and webinars aimed at charities like yours. Join the Beacon Programme.

Order a print copy

If you would like to buy a print copy, please email us Copies are £10 for members and £15 for non-members plus £1.50 for postage and packing (£3.50 when you purchase all three guides).

Please note that we are currently unable to post print copies due to coronavirus. We hope to be able to resume this service soon.