Three weeks ago I wrote an article entitled, ‘How to respond if a forum moderator goes crazy‘. You should always work to resolve problems with your moderators amicably however, this may not always be possible. Consequently, the time may come when you need to fire a forum moderator. In this article I will offer my advice as to how this should be done.
Step One – Is firing the right choice?
Firing staff members should only ever be an act of last resort. It should only happen in the case of a serious breach of trust or professionalism. Remember – not only will you be firing that staff member; you will also potentially be alienating every member that liked the individual concerned.
You can often prevent problems from escalating to the point where a staff member needs to be fired. Keeping in close contact with your staff members, and making yourself approachable to them helps. Giving them clear guidelines and offering them continued guidance also helps – after all, a moderator cannot work how you want them to without knowing what is expected of them in the first place.
Step Two – Once the decision has been made
Let’s say that the staff member in question has been posting offensive posts about you and your site along with personal information about other members – a case for instant dismissal in my book. Here are the steps I would recommend taking:
a) Immediately deactivate their account so they are unable to login using their staff user name or privileges.
b) Delete or move away from public view the problematic posts.
c) Send the (ex-)staff member a message explaining your actions and the reason why you have removed them from their role.
Step Three: Damage limitation
Unsurprisingly, forum moderators don’t like being fired. The last thing you want is for the fired moderator to return under another user name and stir up trouble. Sometimes this may be unavoidable, in which case you simply need to take action against them as you would any other abusive member. If you are lucky though, you may be able to prevent this from happening.
When you contact your moderator to explain that you have had to remove their staff privileges, remain professional, calm and reasonable. Explain why you have had to fire them from their role, and give examples of their unacceptable conduct. Tell them that you take no pleasure in taking this course of action, but their behaviour gave you no choice. Thank them for their contribution to your community in the past and state that you hope they understand the reasons why you have taken such action.
An example of a bad ‘you’re fired’ email:
You are such a &^$%”* idiot, I can’t believe what you done. I’ve had it – you’re FIRED. Go away and don’t come back ever again.
An example of a good ‘you’re fired’ email:
Hi (Insert Moderator’s Name)
It is with deep regret that I need to notify you that I have been forced to remove your staff privileges at (Site Name). Unfortunately your posts/threads entitled (Name Deleted Threads/Posts) were a major breach of the trust I placed in you as a representative of (Site Name). As stated in the moderator guidelines, (Quote the staffing rules breached). Your actions have forced me to terminate your role as a staff member with immediate effect.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your contribution to the site up to this point. I hope we can move on from this incident – you are welcome to use the forum as a regular member and I actively encourage you to do so to show there are no hard feelings. (delete according to your preference).
Step Four: Moving on
I prefer to avoid making a public announcement when a forum moderator has been fired. All this does is increase the risk of embarrassing/angering the fired staff member and creating dissent from those members that liked the moderator in question. I prefer to keep staffing conflicts ‘under the radar’ as much as possible – they are private matters and should be dealt with that way.
Once a forum moderator has been fired, you should get back to business as usual. Don’t dwell on what you have been forced to do, but consider why things escalated to the point they did. Was there anything you could have done to prevent things getting to the point where you needed to fire a moderator? If so, take action to reduce the likelihood of such an occurence happening in the future.
Developing a community is a constant learning process. Don’t doubt your decisions – just learn from them.
Have you ever needed to fire a forum moderator? How did you go about it? Did they return to the forum and cause trouble? How would you go about firing a moderator if the need arose? Share your thoughts, opinions and experiences by leaving a comment below.