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  Part One: How Do I Deal with Moderation Team Issues?
How should a community manager deal with a moderation team which has generated its own set of sporadic policies and procedures? How is teamwork and enforcement of consistent norms achieved?

(This is one in a two part series of answers.)

We were recently sent a detailed scenario where a community manager inherited a staff of untrained paid moderators who were once community participants on the site. The manager, upon introducing themselves to the team and wanting to gain a sense of the moderators’ roles within the community, was told that each moderator had their own “style” of moderation. The subtext was that the manager should not interfere with how they perform their responsibilities. Whilst trying to establish a team environment with consistent methods of moderation from a group seemingly with their own “rules”, the manager has also faced lack of support from a supervisor whose remit is editorial rather than community. An allied issue arose out of public ridicule from a moderator who posted information from a private listserv (rate of pay, discipline procedures, etc.) on the community boards to incite anger from the members.

Several questions were posed which we will deal with in two parts.

How should a community manager deal with a moderation team which has generated its own set of sporadic policies and procedures? How is teamwork and enforcement of consistent norms achieved?

We would first like to say that we are sorry for all the difficulties you are experiencing and hope to be able to supply advice that will help you.

A community manager is a crucial role to play, and it is important that your team and supervisor come to realize that. In order to accomplish this, it is important that you establish yourself as a member of the team who has feelings, and who genuinely cares for the community and the team. It is perfectly acceptable for you to constructively share with your team how current events have affected you and also to ask for their assistance in helping you to help them. Let your team know that you are not interested in “ruling over them”, but rather working with them.

Having a team of moderators is similar to having a set of community members, and like community members, the team needs to feel that they have “buy-in” to the team. You can accomplish this by sharing your ideas on how you would like to see the team function, asking for their input. Stress to them that in order for there to be a consistency of service to them and to the community, policies and procedures for the team must be in place. You can accomplish this by having a brainstorming session, and prefacing that session by letting them know that you truly do care about them are interested in making the working environment the best it can be.

It is important that once a set of policies and procedures is in place that a written set of disciplinary methods be created. You can also include your moderation team in deciding “cause and effect”, for example asking your team, “What do you feel should occur if a team member shares private team information outside of the team?” Inviting your team to understand the importance of having these policies in place and involving them in the creation process will assist you in eradicating the resistance you are experiencing now.

The crucial part is breaking down the barriers of what seems to be a “them and us” situation. Set out to your team what your ideas and goals are, and invite them to submit their own. With these in hand and with both parties aware of the others’ position then you have a chance to come together productively to iron out any areas where there seems to be differences in approach or aim. Meet your team half-way and feel comfortable expressing to them that you have inherited some conditions which you feel need to be changed in order for you to do your job and support them. Where possible engage with each moderator individually, since that will minimize on the one hand the feeling that you are one “against” many, and it will provide you and the moderator to get to know one another on a more individual basis.

Here are some basic resolution tips that may help you as you work through these issues. Do:

(1) acknowledge the effects that the difficulties are having (emotional, organizational etc) without ascribing blame;

(2) describe the perspectives from which the difficulties can be viewed;

(3) put the difficulties in context, especially by highlighting the sequence of events;

(4) summarize any unique outcomes, including a summary of the kind of on-going relationship which is the goal;

(5) ask the team and individuals to reflect on what has happened and what needs to be done to achieve a successful outcome;

(6) pose “what if...” questions designed to invite the team and individuals to consider what might happen if a successful outcome is not gained;

(7) compliment the team and individuals on their involvement in the process of working together.

Most importantly, go easy on yourself. Understand that you were chosen to perform this job because of the attributes that you possess. Do not hesitate to share those positive attributes with your team and the community members by being present, allowing everyone to get to know you as a real person, someone who has an interest in the community and the moderators as a whole.

Please tune in next week when we answer the question…

“How should a manager deal with a supervisor who is seemingly unsympathetic to community needs?”

- Jon Nix and Pam Thomas
http://communityanswers.com
http://cornerways.com
http://cwlive.com
 
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