The Hardest Decision as A Moderator
Last week I had to do something I really didn’t want to do and really hoped I wouldn’t need to do. I removed a member from the community on Google plus. I’m not going to tell you their name as that would be wrong to the person involved but I want to explain why I took this step so that I am being completely honest with you and so you can correct me where I should be corrected.
But before I go into that I want to say I’m sorry.
In this situation and in others I haven’t handled them in the best way and I have probably pushed away a few people I really shouldn’t have. Too often I’ve seen people “breaking the rules” or “not sticking to the guidelines” as a personal offence, one that riled me up. Instead of being collaborative and trying to find out why this happened I have being strict and down the line, often with little grace. In my mind I defended it with the thought that people had read and agreed to the rules (as we send them to each new member) and so they should know what to do…but really that’s no excuse. People forget, people don’t always read things and mistakes happen.
I should have shown more grace, I should have looked to help people rather than tell them off and I should have been more open and maybe this situation wouldn’t have happened. I am sorry.
Why I Removed This Member
The aim of the rules and guidelines we have is to encourage our values. We don’t want this community to be the same as many other communities where people just post something, maybe respond to the comments people leave on their posts and never interact with anyone else or anyone else’s post. Instead we want a collaborative environment where we can learn from each other and help each other. That’s why we set our rules.
Now, people can stick to the rules and not really share the values and people can share the values but not stick to the rules (especially at one off moments) but I believe that the rules and guidelines we have are an indicator of how active in upholding our values a person is. When people are regularly breaking the rules it sets off alarm bells.
This particular individual had been pretty active in the community and regularly shared posts. I don’t know how often they had been commenting on other people’s posts because I try not to watch over people’s shoulders but I’m fairly sure this person was commenting at the start. However, over time their involvement dropped and the posts they shared became less personal. I noticed their posts had been collected by Google’s spam filter and needed to be approved. I approved them and sent them a message explaining that this had happened and why.
My message was very direct and not very personal, which I now regret, but I got no response. I didn’t think much of it but the way this person was sharing changed from having some form of intro to often being just the title of the post written again or in some cases no title at all. What’s more they started to share old posts rather than new one’s and I couldn’t see any interaction happening on their posts.
I reached out again in a more general manner discussing the best way to share so they could get more people to read and comment on their posts and how it was better to address people more personally rather than just stating the title. I also pointed out that sharing just a post with no text is against our rules. Again, I was direct but I tried to be helpful. Honestly, I was angry at this person by now for breaking the rules and for not responding last time, but thankful, the other wise moderators made me chill out.
This person continued acting in much the same way and so another moderator contacted them. This time another moderator sent a general “Hey, what’s up” message. Again there was no response.
At this point I was taking a step back from the community due to an increase of work and left it at that. I came back with a renewed attitude and mindset a month or so later. At which point, I saw that this person had shared a post, had a comment and question directed towards them but had only plussed the comment, not responded. I asked the other moderators what had happened with this individual and the moderators told me that they had no response.
At this point the person was consistently sharing with no text and not interacting with other members. They hadn’t responded to any of the messages we had sent them and it didn’t look like they would ever do so. They didn’t seem to really care about our values or the community at all and I asked the question “If we don’t take action on this person then what are we saying about the rules and guidelines?”
But my mindset was different and instead of hoping he did something that would let me kick this person out I really wanted this person to change and to stay in the community. I sent them one last message explaining the situation, encouraging the person to tell me what they thought about the rules and guidelines if they didn’t like them and doing everything I could to start a dialogue. I did end with the note that if they didn’t respond then I would have no choice but to remove them from the community.
A week passed and I had no response. I checked their profile and they were sharing new posts to other places. So I removed them from the community.
The Big Issue
The biggest issue was not that this person broke the rules, it was that they didn’t engage with us afterwards. I would happily have someone tell me that they think the rules are stupid and make positive suggestions for an alternative (that doesn’t mean we will take them but I will listen to them for sure) but the lack of contact and the persistent avoidance of discussion just made it impossible.
I am firm that our values are worth pursuing and if you don’t like them then there are other communities that don’t have these values for you. I am less firm that these rules are the best way to achieve them and I am willing to discuss them and certainly exceptions are okay. However, I do believe these rules not only benefit the community as a whole but also you as an individual and so I encourage you to stick with them.
All the best.
About Chris Wilson
I'm a 27 English as a foreign language Teacher based in Badajoz in Spain. I also run the Christian Bloggers community and enjoy writing in my free time.