Boardroom Tools

Management Fatigue Identification Tool

By NACD Staff


Committees and Roles

In brief: During times of crisis, it can often feel as if all hands are on deck, and the board can often try to do too much. The board has a responsibility to oversee management’s performance, but during a crisis, the need for more frequent communication between the board and management can become burdensome, even bordering on fatigue, as management tries to satisfy the board’s requests while managing the crisis at the ground level at the same time. This can result in management not doing their best work. This tool helps directors identify management fatigue and correct any board actions that may contribute to this effect.

  • Directors will learn how to spot warning signs of management fatigue.

  • Tips on how to alleviate management fatigue during a crisis are provided.

  • This tool provides guidance on how to avoid critical fault lines between board and management in the future.

OBJECTIVE OF THIS RESOURCE: This tool highlights some of the causes and effects of management fatigue, so that directors can avoid these pitfalls in the future and maximize the productivity of management in a crisis setting. Even under normal circumstances, management has many challenges to tackle. In a crisis, this goes into overdrive, often causing fatigue. Moreover, when boards lean too heavily on management, fatigue compounds. Fatigue limits management’s ability to do their best work by affecting decision making and focus. NACD has assembled a tool to identify management fatigue, establish healthy board-management communication, and take some of the burden off management when management is stretched too thin. 


Warning signs of management fatigue

  • Information from management is repetitive: New information increasingly resembles recycled material from previous presentations. This shows that management has not been given sufficient time for fact-finding between board meetings. 

  • Signs of physical fatigue: Oftentimes, when board meetings become too frequent, management focuses on both their duties to the company and their duties to the board. This means that they are working twice the hours, reducing the hours available for rest. Executives who appear physically tired, who are easily distracted, and who show reduced acuity during meetings may be less able to carry on their duties at a level required by the crisis. 

  • Deferring to management brings added burden: If board members are reluctant to challenge the views of management, this can be a sign that the board is overly reliant on both the views and actions of management, a warning sign that management is being tasked with more work than they can handle.

Tips to mitigate management fatigue

  • Communicate guidance from the lead director to management indicating that information can be presented to the board on a need-to-know basis. If there is no guidance from the board, management’s presentations will resemble the status quo format from standard board meetings, which can be more time consuming to put together than information presented on a need-to-know basis. 

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