In conflict resolution, it is recommended that conflicts be resolved at the lowest level possible. When it comes to disagreements amongst book club members, resolution at the lowest level is considered member-to-member. The concerned member should go to the person one-on-one in a calm and professional manner to discuss the disagreement and search for solutions. If this effort does not resolve the matter, depending on the severity of the problem, further action should be considered. (Note: In some cases, the concerned member may feel uncomfortable going directly to the problem officer. In these cases, it is suggested that the concerned member use Intervention 2.
Intervention 2 – Seek Counsel
Seeking counsel and who to seek counsel from will depend on which officer is involved in the dispute. Most often, a member should be able to present the issue to the club’s president, however, sometimes the problem resides with the president, which can heighten the discomfort surrounding the conflict. When the president is the culprit, the concerned member should present the issue to the next officer in line, following the chain of command (vice president, treasurer, secretary, etc.) Although it is okay to speak with one or two members about the problem, try to avoid forming a lynch mob against the officer in question. Getting other members upset and overly involved in the disagreement will only escalate the matter and cause more harm. Instead, keep communication between the concerned member and the officer handling the incident until it is agree upon to share the issue with the entire group. The president or officer handling the matter will need to decide if the situation should be handled in private between the two members or if due to the nature of the situation, it should be discussed with the entire club. In most cases, the issue should be handled in private, but if it is a matter that impacts the entire club (such as bylaws/policies, club money matters, etc.), the group as a whole may need to address the matter and vote on a resolution.
Intervention 3 – Immediate Mediation
There are many situation in which the problem or disagreement may arise in the midst of a meeting. Often, the concerned person may let the issue go and forfeit continued discussion about the topic during the meeting, but there are some times when the disagreement is so intense or disruptive that it requires immediate attention. Hopefully, another officer, such as the president or vice-president will notice the tension and/or behavior and intervene. However, this may not always be the case. If another officer does not step in, it is recommended that the concerned member request that the book club address the issue immediately as a group, or if this is not feasible, schedule a future time to address the matter as a group. Since the problematic behavior has been demonstrated in front of the group, during a group meeting, group intervention is appropriate and most likely necessary. The two members (the concerned member and the officer) should be given a chance to speak first, expressing their perspective on the situation. Other members should be allowed to also present their views. Resolutions should be offered by the group, and a vote should decide which resolution will be applied.
Intervention 4 – The Worst Case Scenario
If after these attempts to resolve the problem are implemented, the problem continues to persist due to a disruptive or rebellious officer, one of two options may need to occur. One, if the club has voted on a resolution and the officer continues to conduct themselves in a disorderly fashion, the club should vote on the removal (or suspension) of the officer from their position and/or possibly from the club. Two, if the club refuses the address the issue with the officer, the concerned member has the right to decide to forfeit their club membership, expressing that they are unsatisfied with the club’s ability to resolve conflict and operate as a functional group. (Note: The procedure for handling disruptive members should be outlined in your club’s bylaws under the Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct applies to all members, including officers, and should be enforced.)