If a CEO/ED is providing terrible leadership and the Board has not done the yearly evaluation required by the by-laws, is there anything an employee can do to get the Board to evaluate the CEO? When is it possible to oust a poorly performing CEO?
A Board can normally terminate a CEO at any time, although it may have to pay significant severance and, if there is a contract, buy out many months of service. You should understand, however, that it is psychologically very difficult for a Board of volunteers to cut off the livelihood of a CEO who has given years of dedicated service, even if it has not been the most exemplary service. How to get the Board to consider such action, or even start a review process, can be a really tricky question.
I assume that the leadership is, in your opinion, merely poor or wrong-headed, and not illegal. I also assume that the issues have not been – or cannot be – resolved when raised in private meetings, staff meetings, or meetings with Board committees that are evaluating programs. If so, my next question is whether your view is shared by others on the staff. A group has a better chance of effecting change than a single employee.
With a Board that has a few people paying attention to operations, questions or complaints to the right people on the Board (or if you have members, to the right members) may be enough to start the review process. If the process does not include talking to staff, however, it may not pick up the issues that concern you.
If there is a group of employees who feel as you do, it may be possible to talk “off the record” to a Board member you feel would be sympathetic, but I would not count on maintaining confidentiality. Anonymous complaints to internal “hot lines,” if you have them for issues such as whistleblowing or harassment complaints, may also initiate an inquiry. A request for a strategic plan may be a way to raise the issues indirectly.
You need to remember, however, especially if you are an at-will employee, that the CEO may deem any questions about his or her leadership to be a form of corporate treason and decide that your services are no longer needed. A firing or two of staff, who, from what I infer from your question, would have no protection from any whistleblower laws, may eventually hurt the CEO in the eyes of the Board, but you may be long gone before that happens.
If a few judicious questions about a review do not start the process, you may have to bide your time until the Board gets around to it. If nothing is happening and the failure of leadership is seriously compromising the effectiveness of the organization or you are simply not happy with the situation, you may want to find another place to utilize your talents.
I would be interested in readers’ suggestions of what you might want to do in this situation.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009