I had to make a tough decision Friday – one I have struggled with for many months. The details won’t interest many others, I suspect, except those directly affected at my work. The process and the lesson, however, should apply to more people.
As the community manager for our company’s internal social network, it is my instinct and basic value to allow conversation on nearly all subjects unless they violate company policy and unless the conversations themselves devolve into disrespectful barbs thrown at others. At that point, the conversation has to change or be removed. At worse, the individual has to be warned and, if necessary, removed from the community.
For more than two years we have allowed political discussions on our social network with the hope that they could be civil discussions. The reality, though, is that far too many of those discussions went south into just a handful of people bickering back and forth and accomplishing nothing useful. Repeated warnings were given. I initiated a non-binding poll of the larger community back in May about whether to continue the politics group or not and 58% said to get rid of it. Sadly, the tone of conversations never improved and the preferred self-policing didn’t work for this crowd.
So on Friday I removed the group and broadcast a long explanation of why I was doing so. I was very pleased to get nearly 100% positive feedback from the 100+ likes and comments over the next several hours. That was a good affirmation of the decision.
The tough part in this was the fact that some very important values collided in this situation. As a community manager, I value allowing people the right to discuss things. I don’t want to stifle conversation. On the other hand, my role demands that I do what is in the best interest of the health of the community and to accomplish the company’s business objectives. This time those values were at odds, so the health of the community and goals of the business had to take precedence.
It was the right call – a tough one, but the right one.
Leap year lesson #206 is When values collide, go with the higher purpose.