Let's say I've got a forum called A and a user called X. X is rude, so rude that he/she gets on my nerves. This user is also considered annoying by many other community members; it's not just me. But. I am the owner of A which is related to a for-profit organization. How should I handle such a user? I can't become less formal because that would affect the reputation and 'style' of the company, but I do need to teach X something, and that's that his behavior is unacceptable.

How should I handle X? What should I say to him?


4 Answers 4


This depends largely on the nature of the issue. If he is being rude to other users, keep things professional and explain to them, through the most private channel available to you, that his rudeness is not in keeping with the guidelines of the community and that the behavior needs to change if he wishes to remain part of the community. If he doesn't change, suspend him for a time. If he still is a problem, ban him.

If this is an issue where he is being rude to you specifically and not the community in general, hand it off to another moderator to handle. Recuse yourself from the situation as you are directly involved and you want to avoid the appearance of stomping on his side of the argument simply because you have the power. Whoever takes over should then look at the issue and follow the same guidelines as above.

If you are the only moderator, then things become a bit more tricky. The best bet is probably to take it offline and attempt to work things out with the user and let them know (as politely as possible) that being rude won't help resolve their problem. Hopefully you can get it worked out, but without someone uninvolved to be able to come in and mediate, it may be difficult to resolve the situation if they have developed a victim complex.


Private Communication

This sounds like a good time to speak with said person in private either through a private message or alternative communications.

I typically use this approach to community influencers who I don't want to moderate in public, but also need to get them back on track to following the guidelines. Speaking with them in private adds a personal touch where can both talk about the issues. The outcome is mostly favorable because we can get it all out and the open and resolved.

This approach may work best for you because it's in private and not on the forums where you have to worry about things becoming less formal.

Communication Style

Remember, even if you're speaking to someone privately, only communicate what you would communicate to everyone in a public channel. Assume that everyone in your community is listening in on your private conversation and never assume that you will never be quoted, because you will eventually.

Public Retaliation

If you take the approach of speaking privately with a user about his or her conduct in your community, then you may see a retaliation from the specific user in your community or other communities. That retaliation will normally include either a direct quote from the conversation, negativity on the conversation or just pure slander on the representative themselves.

(Note: This is why many community guidelines and rules entail not to repost moderated material in the public forums. Consider adjusting your own guidelines to reflect this.)

Retaliations like these can occur regardless of the communication platform. It can occur because you moderated a user in a public forum or because you spoke to them privately.

Your Channel

When actions like these happen on your channel or forum, the best course of action is to remove the comments. Although I personally rarely delete/remove comments, this is one of the few cases that I do simply because it normally include private dialog that is not for the public forum or channel.

When removal happens, a private message should be given to the user with a clear explanation on why it was moderated and what course of action needs to happen next. If it continues, the last resort if you can not come to a civil resolution via private communication is temporary suspension or permanent banning.

Another Channel

When it occurs in another channel or forum that you do not control, then there is most likely nothing you can do in terms of moderation unless you know someone on that channel. The best course of action there is to avoid being pulled into the discussion right away. Relax, see how it develops and know that majority of the users on your channel are likely not viewing the communication on another channel.

If you notice that the thread is developing into something bad, then engaging the post may be recommended AT caution. The reason caution is highlighted is because you are entering a channel you have no control. When you have no control, the wrong things can be happened or said.

That's why it's important to be patient, watch the discussion and plan out your response while considering the impact of said post after it's been published. Sometimes the best approach is simply explaining your side of the story and then letting it drop. Others have gone deeper down the rabbit hole and engaged in deeper arguments. But, going deeper increases the risk of both making you look bad, the organization look bad and possible setting yourself up for failure.

Consider the risk versus reward and engage at your own risk.

Address The Issue

However, if you choose not to address the issue, then it will continue to happen or worse, fester into something that forces your hand to do something else. Either way, address the issue, get the user back on track and everyone is happy (hopefully).

  • > This approach may work best for you because it's in private and not on the forums where you have to worry about things becoming less formal. - Yes, though the X may complain about my attitude there on other public forums. What about that?
    – William
    Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 17:51
  • I'll update my answer to cover that because that is very common.
    – Glen Swan
    Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 19:10

A lot depends on what rules you have in place regarding rudeness and what sanctions you can apply to his account and what modes of communication you have available. Here on Stack Exchange for example we have a "be nice" rule and can:

  • Leave a comment - very informal, very public
  • Send a message - formal, private
  • Suspend the account - formal, public
  • Delete the account - final and public

Each level is more serious than the last, and except for extreme circumstances you should try to go through each level.

If you can, go for the lowest level of communication first, that may be leaving a comment on one of their posts or sending a private message, failing that suspending their account for a couple of days might just be what's needed to jolt them out of their current behaviour. Quote the rule they have broken and tell them that they are welcome to participate if they can abide by the rules and "be nice".


I think this kind of thing is the Forums fault. First, if you allow people to be anonymous avatars then human nature kicks in when people develop a false bravery. So maybe vet what kind of users you have in the first place.

Second, Be clear on what the rules are. And monitor better and delete their conversations when they violate your rules.

All the best. -chris

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