How to fire a forum moderator

by Martin Reed on 19 March 2008 in Articles

Sack bad forum moderators

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).


(Your Name)

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.

Your thoughts

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.

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Mr Woc March 20, 2008 at 12:18 am

Hi there

Very interesting post, we have never had to fire a forum moderator as I do all my own moderation (my forums pretty manageable at the moment)

We have however had to fire a chat room host in the past and it did not go well at all, we had a moderator who thought he could more or less do what he liked, we eventually had to take the decision to remove their moderator status, and all hell broke lose, the member took it very personally.

I was sent some shocking abusive mail and forums posts, even got other members to gang up on me, I wouldnít even repeat the abuse, some of it was distressing as it was getting personal, so in the end the member got banned from the chat room, which was a shame, as I did was remove their moderator status !

Looking back the mistake we made was letting this moderator get away with so much in the first place, after all they are your staff even though they donít get paid, should still keep an eye on them, It hasnít happened since btw lol !

Now when we ask someone to moderate, I mention to them that it might not be permanent and that I will take your moderator privileges from you at any time, and also mention not to take it personally if we do remove them from you, which I feel makes it better for us and the person who is moderating the chat.

I think there is an important point here, which is to choose the people you trust with your website very carefully, we were all pretty shocked and dismayed at the abuse I received from the member who was one of our moderators and I trusted.

We now choose people very carefully after this experience and the first sign of any trouble with any of our moderators, we take the status off !


Webtacs March 20, 2008 at 2:42 am

I liked the way that this post kind of placed specifics to how to do this. Luckily I have never had to fire a moderator. Hopefully I will never need to refer back to this article but, I am happy that I read this.

Martin Reed - Blog Author March 21, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Mr Woc – Thanks for your comment and sharing your experience with us all. Unfortunately these incidents can and do happen, and very often they are unpleasant. It can be hard, but it is important to remain in control and try not to take any nasty comments personally.

At the end of the day, remember that you are always in full control – you can remove a user, or you can take a breather and move away from your computer at any time.

Failing to support your staff members, or take an interest in their role can lead to an increase in problems over time – as you discovered. Choosing staff members is a serious issue and needs to be considered very carefully at all times.

Webtacs – I hope you will never need to refer back to this article, but if you do I am glad to have helped!

Smiley March 30, 2008 at 2:28 pm

I never realized how hard it is to make the decision to fire someone.

I gave them chance after chance after chance, but they still wouldn’t stop banning people for the silliest of reasons.

I removed their staff features then sent them a polite e-mail saying I’ve temporarily removed them, I re-sent him my staff handbook that I had written, and explained in detail what he keeps doing wrong (for the 100th time).

I told him to have a month’s cooling off period and told him to watch the other support members from a user’s perspective, and that’s how he should be.. I told him if he felt like he could calm down and change he’d be welcome to re-apply.

..He kept re-applying every blooming 2 days, then threw a temper tantrum and “left forever” when I said I don’t feel he’s ready yet.

Nevermind eh?

Martin Reed - Blog Author April 2, 2008 at 12:55 pm

Smiley – Making the decision to let someone go can be very difficult; particularly when most of the time they are unpaid volunteers.

The fact is though, sometimes these decisions need to be made, and they need to be made promptly. It sounds to me that the person you mention had plenty of chances to mend their ways – sometimes though, you just have to admit defeat!

Matt (Fire Safety) June 24, 2008 at 11:15 am

Hay! When youve gotta do it, youve gotta do it. Some people just cant handle the power!

Martin Reed - Blog Author June 26, 2008 at 11:31 pm

Matt – Very true! It’s important to ensure you handle the firing with professionalism, though!

toneDeaf April 16, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Great Article, I have had the unfortunate experience of removing at least 6 moderators.
the first few were no brainers because they broke site rules and went quietly.
The other two were because they refused to sign waivers and NDA docs.. they didnt go so quietly. it was a mess

Shawn July 2, 2009 at 11:29 am

Most of it has just been for repeated inactivity; have had to remove one admin (hard deleted a user) though.