Is a vote of “No Confidence” right for our group?

Roberts Rules of Order stays silent on votes of no confidence.

Mae Kuykendall, a professor of law at Michigan State University and an expert on corporate law, studied the no-confidence vote's origins, philosophical underpinnings, and uses in higher-education institutions and other organizations.

Dr. Kuykendall was interviewed by The Chronicle of Higher Education and explained that “The phrase arose in the British Parliament [in 1782, in response to the British surrender to the Americans at Yorktown]. The vote has come to express the loss of support by a group whose cooperation is necessary for a leader's exercise of her duties. Libraries, police departments, public schools, fire departments, universities and their subunits, and various nonprofit groups use the vote of no confidence.”

The term “vote of no confidence” is not used or defined anywhere in Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised 11th Ed., and there is no mention of any motion for such a vote. However this does not mean that an assembly cannot adopt a motion, if it wishes, expressing either its confidence or lack of confidence in any of its officers or subordinate boards or committees. Any such motion would simply be a main motion, and would have no effect other than to express the assembly's views concerning the matter. A vote of “no confidence” does not -- as it would in the British Parliament -- remove an officer from office (

Whenever something of a serious nature is at stake, it’s always a good idea to see what Robert’s Rules of Order has to say about it. Robert’s Rules of Order is silent on the matter of taking votes of no confidence.  Parliamentary procedure is a guide for how to run an organization. While it covers most situations, parliamentary procedure also allows organizations some flexibility in the area of customizing their own rules. An organization could make a main motion to express confidence or lack of confidence in a director, member, or some other leader. This motion could include the requirement that the person step down from a leadership position in the event of a successful vote of no confidence.

According to Board Effect, in most cases, an organization stands to lose more than gain by following through with a vote of no confidence. That said, it’s important to explore all other positive alternatives first. Would some additional training in a specific area for the leader be helpful? Does the leader need additional staff or finances to properly perform duties? Is it appropriate to call in a third party as a consultant? Would it be more beneficial overall to request a resignation?

Consider all options and repercussions before calling for the vote of no confidence and remember you won’t find guidance from Roberts Rules of Order!

Michigan State University Extension Educators can provide your organization with assistance in learning more about parliamentary procedure.  The Government and Public Policy team also offers training for elected and appointed officials for improved effectiveness in several areas, including various public policy issues and effects of government programs, regulation, incentives, strategies and more. By working together with local elected and appointed officials, and interested citizens, MSU Extension is able to provide education on critical local and state issues.

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