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A popular, yet divisive user is running in a moderator election. The user, while having a strong record of participation in the site, is problematic in that they frequently disagree with existing moderator practices, harrass users who do not understand site policy, and generally cause drama.

As moderators, being seen to actively prevent the user from being elected could be disastrous. What can be done to protect the community from a moderator who could seriously unbalance the existing moderator team?

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As the site administration, you reserve the right to not accept a moderator's nomination even when community consensus is achieved. After all, it is your community, and in addition to that of the community, it is your trust that must be earned.

Moderators are delegates of the site's administration to handle the community. Personally, I wouldn't accept the nomination of a user I don't trust.

There is also always the option of accepting the user's nomination, but also making sure he understands full-well that his personal personal views come last when it comes to moderation issues with the site, otherwise his moderator status can be revoked.

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    How do you deal with the fall out caused when this popular user's nomination is rejected? – Andy Jul 30 '14 at 22:23
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    I'm sorry, but I have to say that this answer isn't quite right. In a way it is indeed "your community", but saying that to your users is one of the quickest way to alienate them. Furthermore, not giving an actual relevant reason for an unpopular decision you make, does the same thing. Using the "We reserve the right to (...)" line should only be done when the reason is very confident, and there is no way you can explain it in a better way. I'm sorry, but I really hope that people will not follow this answer's advice. – Lee White Aug 1 '14 at 6:29
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It is a bad idea to fall back on the "We reserve the right to (...)" phrase that administrators tend to use. This should be a very last resort, when your reason is absolutely confidential, and there is no way to explain it correctly. So while Madara Uchiha's answer is useful for some cases, usually you will want to tackle this issue with more tact.

There are several "excuses" that you can use for the user's rejection, which are much more honest and to-the-point, and I think this one is the best solution with the kind of person that you are describing:

"We have reason to believe that this person's personality would clash with the other team members."

This is something you can use for the "popular yet bothersome" kind of person. If they're popular, your users will know that they have a knack for being involved with drama. So even if you don't literally mention the drama, almost all users will understand what you are actually getting at. Users who don't know this particular person, will see this as a perfectly acceptable reason.

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    If they are popular and being prevented from joining the election, how do you deal with the fall out caused when users see this popular person being rejected? – Andy Jul 30 '14 at 22:24
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You may accept the user as a moderator if he is really popular. Maybe you are able to give him not all moderation power but some. Explain clearly, you set the rules of his work. If you see, that he accepts your moderation practices and follows them, you may increase his power. In addition, you set a clear deadline of his probation.

Nevertheless, if you can't accept his past behaviour and you're not thinking, he will change, you shouldn't promote him.

In addition, ask yourself why he is so popular and what are the reasons of your community. Maybe this may inspire you to change some of your own rules and practices.

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