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i Have a question that is close to another one that was recently asked. Mine doesn't deal with "disruptive" behaviour, but more with someone who is very strong willed and overpowering.

I am on a board for my village. We meet every other week to discuss village matters. We are all elected - though to be completely fair to the election process each district in the village had an unopposed candidate. We each hold two year terms. During the last election cycle (2012) a new member was elected. He is new to the village (moved in early 2011), but was a local politician in his former city. He was reelected a few weeks ago.

This individual is, admittedly, very intelligent and knows what he is talking about. However it comes across as arrogance and rudeness when dealing with other board members. His very strong personality dominates the meetings. On multiple occasions he's requested the meeting be rescheduled to a different date due to a conflict of some kind. He also has an expectation of immediate results after motions have been passed.

This individual is dominating the group and it feels like people are becoming less engaged. Since he (and the rest of us) are elected, we can't just ask him to leave. We also can't change meeting times without jumping through proper hoops due to village by-laws.

How can I approach this person to explain the problem we have with his behaviour. I really am not sure if this is just larger city politics moving into my tiny village or if it's a personality conflict between someone who has had much more experience in larger political arena.

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Welcome to the world of politics. Please leave your morals and dignity at the cloakroom.

You could try to explain the problem to him, but when he is indeed a more experienced politician than you all, then all it will do is affirm to him that everything runs perfectly to his plan.

Politics is about power. Dominating others is the main skill of a good politician. That's what politicians get elected for: Enforce their opinion, even when there is resistance.

There are two ways to deal with this.

The first is to also learn how to play the game.

  • Don't let him dominate you, learn rhetorical and psychological techniques to fight him.
  • Do your homework before meetings so you know all the facts about what you decide, what arguments will come up and how to counter them.
  • Make alliances with other board members to back each other up and not let him get through with his game.

Yes, it's dirty, but that's how politics works. It's what your voters expect from you.

However, when you would like to retain your moral integrity, there is also a second solution: kick him upstairs. When you are obviously no match for him, you might help him to get elected to a higher political board where he is matched against more equal opponents and leaves you alone. Suggest him to run for the position and support his campaign. When he gets elected, he will resign from his current position or at least spend a lot less energy on it, as he has now a more powerful position to establish and defend.

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The first thing to try is for somebody to take him aside, go get coffee or something, and talk about how this village board has run, successfully, for decades. His enthusiasm is appreciated but could he dial it down a bit? Does he realize that, instead of getting people to agree with him, he's actually pushing them away? This is the "kind native trying to help the newcomer fit in" approach. It may be getting a little late for it if he's been in office for two years already, but it's worth a shot if there's somebody who's willing to do it.

If that doesn't work, you need the meeting chair to be firm and the rest of you need to support the chair. He wants to change the meeting time? Sorry, our meeting time is set in the bylaws. Can't we change that? Please feel free to follow the process for amendments laid out in the bylaws. Can we discuss it now? No, we have an agenda and we are going to follow it. If he brings up new items of business in the middle of meetings, remand them to "new business" at the end and shut down that discussion now. Tell him that, as elected board members, you are obligated first and foremost to conduct the village's business on behalf of its citizens and you are going to get back to doing that now. If he persists in being disruptive you'll have to be prepared to remove him from a meeting, but if he's been playing big-city politics for a while he probably knows not to do that.

The chair, as the person running the meeting, needs to be firm in this. The rest of you need to support the chair. If this person won't stick to the agenda, don't engage him -- redirect him. "No, we are not going to talk about changing the meeting time now. The current agenda item is financing the updates to the water system."

He's pushing you around because he thinks he can do so without too much effort. Increase the effort he has to go through and he'll be more likely to save it for the things that matter most to him.

If worse comes to worst, you can stall him. In a historical-recreation group I belong to where the position of king changes every six months we have a saying: If the king says "dig that trench!" royalists will say "yes your majesty!", but it might take six months to find a shovel. Your big-city board member isn't in charge, but if he insists on pushing the rest of you around anyway, remand it to committee -- so that the issue can be given the attention it deserves, not be hastily acted on tonight by people who haven't had the opportunity to study it. Lather, rinse, repeat.

And finally, as this answer says, if you can help him find better political stomping grounds than your village, you'll all win. His future fellow elected representatives will just have to fend for themselves -- but as you move higher up the chain people are generally better-equipped to do so, so don't feel too bad.

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