Creative Commons License photo credit: adam1481

Recently, a series of events occurred that indicated to me that I could no longer trust a member of my staff. No matter how careful you are in selecting people, this will happen because people change and people are imperfect.

Most of my staff members tend to be popular within the community. That’s not why they get selected, they get selected because I believe that they are good people and they care about the community. That leads to popularity (at least it does on my sites) and this member was no exception.

In a circumstance like this, I feel as though you might feel pressured to keep the person on your team, even if you don’t fully trust them. I would urge you to resist that temptation.   Instead, I remove the person from the team. That doesn’t mean I just remove them off with no explanation. I explain the situation to them. Depending on how bad it is, I may remove them immediately or I may give them the opportunity to post a farewell thread to the staff and to view replies for a few days. Once they are off of staff, I can then fully explain the matter to my team.

If you have paid staff members, it is appropriate to give a certain number of days notice to that person, like 30 days, since they depend on the income to live. In this case, if possible, I would suggest that you pay them not to work. Pay them for 30 days, to do the right thing, but don’t allow them to continue to do the work.

The reason is simple: if they can’t be trusted, they shouldn’t be given the access a staff member is given. This can include access to private forums with sensitive discussions about the community and members within it, documentation of guideline violations, future plans, moderator abilities (including the removal of content), being viewed as a representative of the community and more. These things should only be in the hands of people you can trust because in the wrong hands, damage can be done.

It is a sensitive role and should be treated as such. That’s why I am very particular about who I allow to hold it and, when someone that holds it does something that makes me uncomfortable, I take action. Otherwise, I would feel uneasy about that person. I would feel like my team isn’t as strong as it should be.

People make mistakes. It’s not about that. I’m talking about when someone does something that fundamentally forces you to question their judgement and ability to do the right thing as a staff member. It’s not something that you can coach or work on. It’s deeper than that. You can’t ignore it, you can’t let it pass or choose to look the other way, no matter how popular the person is. You have to remove that unstable part of your team.