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Board and Leadership

Boardroom Etiquette: 5 Social Missteps to Avoid

Boardroom Etiquette: 5 Social Missteps to Avoid

The stakes are high in the boardroom, and what is said – or left unsaid – can significantly impact the future of an organization. An environment that lacks a clear foundation for communication and interaction makes it difficult to resolve key issues. Following are common etiquette mistakes that can creep, often unnoticed, into the boardroom and hinder productivity.


  1. Bypassing basic rules. An atmosphere that allows interruptions and speaking at inappropriate times can significantly hamper the decision-making process. If some directors are not treated the same as others, they may hold back from discussions, thereby concealing their expertise and contributions to the company. Boards that operate without a courtesy code in place will find it difficult to receive meaningful insight from all members.
  1. A buried culture. Boards function in different ways, and new directors, as well as existing directors, need to understand proper protocols. If onboarding members are not aware of how to address the board chair, when to ask questions and how to manage offline discussions, they may unintentionally make slips during critical moments of the meeting.
  1. A steamrolling tendency. Key company issues will not get explored in an open way if the same individuals are constantly steering the conversation. When agenda items are not sent out to all board members before a meeting, there is not an equal opportunity for everyone to fully prepare. If the board chair or CEO doesn’t personally reach out to members who haven’t shared their insight, it may be difficult to gather diverse points of view.
  1. Over-processing newcomers. While new directors will want to understand the company’s operations and culture, learning too many details at once can backfire. Directors who are briefed with lengthy procedures and frameworks to follow may feel inundated by the details. Ultimately, this may hold them back from bringing a fresh, unbiased perspective to their first board meeting.
  1. Free-for-all seating. If seating arrangements aren’t updated on a regular basis, board members may gravitate to certain positions. This can lead to the formation of cliques in the boardroom, side conversations and an unwelcoming environment for newcomers.


Make sure your board members are following the etiquette rulebook. Download our white paper, Engineering Higher EQ and Better Dynamics in the Boardroom, for ways to implement proper protocols that encourage engagement and increase productivity.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.