10

Let's say Bob (User) and Jake (Moderator) are in a discussion. Things get heated, and Jake starts calling Bob names, and threatens to ban him. Bob is not doing anything he shouldn't be doing, but when things went against what Jake liked, he got mad.

Jake finally bans Bob, chat is in chaos, because Bob didn't do anything and Jake banned without a reason. What should you, the owner/admin, do in this situation?

Should you remove them from their moderation status, remove it for a day or two, and point out what he did wrong, or what is the best way to handle this, without causing more trouble?

14

The first and most important thing is communication.

For starters, things should, ideally never escalate to a moderator calling a user names. Other moderators or staff members should be there to support him, and even remove him from the argument if things get personal.

Second, if the suspension was wrongly placed, it should be lifted. The moderator should be talked with (generally by staff), and understanding reached. If understanding cannot be reached, then the moderator lost the trust the staff had in him, as well as the trust the community had in him, and should lose his moderation privilege. (Note that this is an extreme case).

  • I agree with you totally! Great answer. What if the moderators all have the same level, and then the moderators tried to intervene, and it didn't help? – Dozer789 Jul 29 '14 at 18:55
  • @Dozer789: Seek help from higher authority, or remove the other user from the discussion. If you cannot, there isn't much you can do about it, and just pray to god that it ends quickly. – Madara's Ghost Jul 29 '14 at 18:58
13

This situation is easily prevented, but once it has happened, it is important to communicate the following things:

  1. If a moderator ever grows too emotionally involved, they should defer to another moderator. Neutrality is the pinnacle of moderation, and in this case, Jake has lost it. This should be clear from the outset, and if it isn't, it needs to be clear from this point forward.

  2. Moderators only have power because they are trusted to use it properly. If they fail to use it properly, they have lost some of that trust. The more egregious the problem, the more trust they have lost. If, for instance, this argument was public, they have likely lost most of the trust the community has generously lent them.

    If a moderator cannot be trusted by the either the community or other moderators, then for the sake of peace that moderator should be removed.

  3. Moderators have an implicit obligation not to enter heated arguments with community members. This is primarily a matter of trust (see (2)), since moderators are trusted to restore the peace, not disturb it. It is also by virtue of the fact that moderators wield too much authority, and that authority interferes with and exacerbates any discussion or argument. Moderators are also subject to higher community scrutiny, which means the posts of a moderator affect a much wider audience.

Once these things are communicated and made perfectly clear, it is important to keep close tabs on them. At the point where the community no longer trusts a moderator, it is time to remove them. But, if the community (and the moderators) indicate they are willing to accept the moderator again, then it may be worth letting them stick around for a while longer.

Just be careful that they don't make the same mistake again.

  • Great answer also. So your suggestion is that if you know your going to get too emotionally involved, to hand it over to another moderator? I'm thinking that is some really good logic. – Dozer789 Jul 29 '14 at 19:05
  • @Dozer Yeah, or at the very least, discuss it with another moderator before responding. – user35 Jul 29 '14 at 19:05
  • 2
    @Dozer789 and relatedly, if another mod sees it happening, that mod should step in -- review the situation, correct anything that needs to be undone, and take Jake aside and tell him to knock it off. – Monica Cellio Aug 8 '14 at 23:50
4

The first thing to do is check with the Jake about the situation. Perhaps there was more to it than was publicly visible, so make sure the situation is what it appears to be first and that the ban (or any other moderator action) was actually unjustified. If it turns out there was more going on and the ban seems justified, explain to Jake how the situation appears at first and coach him on avoiding calling a user names and taking other vengeful actions beyond neutral moderation so that it doesn't appear he is abusing a user in the future.

If, in fact, it is abuse and there isn't more to the situation, then remove the suspension immediately and request that Jake apologize to the user. Mistakes do happen, but moderation comes with added responsibilities to the community and should be held to a higher standard of conduct, so an apology at a minimum is a reasonable expectation. Make sure Jake is aware that he should be mindful of his personal involvement in a situation and seek the aid of another moderator if he becomes too personally involved in a situation.

If Jake is willing to apologize and things can be smoothed over it can probably stop there with Jake being a little wiser to avoid similar situations in the future.

If Jake is unwilling to apologize however, then there is a much bigger problem. If Jake doesn't see why the situation is not ok and demonstrates no willingness to correct for the behavior in the future, either a temporary removal of privileges, a reduction in privileges or a complete loss of privileges may very well be in order. Note that any of these actions are likely to initially cause more drama, but in the long run, having a moderator who has no problem with abusing users and isn't open to being counseled on it is a huge risk to your community.

It is worth playing by ear, but generally, if I see a moderator who clearly has no interest in avoiding abusing their power to get their own personal way in the future, they aren't fit to be a moderator. This attitude goes entirely against the idea behind moderation, where your goal is to be neutral and take the position best for the community rather than best for yourself.

2

It depends on how strong do you need Jake. As others have pointed out:

  • Moderators are mostly supposed to lead by example and show how should things go by the rules. Most (if not all) places that I have seen required moderators to have totally clear record in terms of rules violations. Entering heated discussions is mostly at least not encouraged, name calling is mostly forbidden.
  • Power is given to moderators to keep peace, not to break it.
  • If users with powers do such things publicly, severe social problems appear in the community.
  • Sometimes additional restrictions are applied on admins -- for example, total taboo on engaging in any type of a long discussion, even if it goes in order. Not always, though.

So, it means that Jake clearly doesn't fulfill requirements to be a good moderator anymore, and as of now should lose his powers.

However:

  • People change. Perhaps, Jake will learn from his mistakes and be a good mod once upon a time. Perhaps no, though.
  • Some communities are so small that they cannot afford to discard a mod forever.

Again, in any case Jake has to take at least a small break in moderating, but if you need him back, you can do it later by publicly announcing that Jake did something wrong, but apologized, was really sorry, etc., and is a mod again.

In any case you would have to apologize for Jake's action on the behalf of your community if he doesn't. If he does want to do it, let him apologize himself.

And for some communities, believe me or not, such a behaviour is actually treated as normal. Russian internet actually has a lot of folklore about arguing with a moderator being useless because he may always win by using his tools.

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