If you’re like me, you want your staff members to like each other. If at all possible, you want them to be friends. You want them to be a tight unit, working together to accomplish the goals that you have set for the community and helping you to manage it as a whole.

What you don’t want is derision. I’ve written about staff members reporting posts to other staff members, but I’d like to take it a little further. You don’t want backbiting, sniping or infighting. You don’t want them following each other around, waiting for the moment when one of them makes some sort of mistake. That’s not a team.

When you leave it to equals to police equals, it’s a mistake because, no matter how it works out, it’ll usually work out poorly. There are three likely outcomes.

They Are Diligent and Confront One Another

Let’s say that the staff is diligent in watching each other and they notice mistakes and point them out every single time they happen. This casually ignores a rather large issue, which is the fact that there should be someone in charge who can speak 100% definitively on the guidelines of the community and how they are to be enforced, when a moderator is unsure. You don’t want too many cooks trying to interpret the guidelines, you want someone who can speak definitively. Otherwise, you can suffer from groupthink and a lack of action.

But, let’s ignore that roadblock for the sake of discussion. If they are deligent, sometimes the staff member they are telling will take it in stride, realize the mistake and adjust. They may privately not care for it to be pointed out in this fashion, but they don’t say it.

However, they may also disagree with the charge because, after all, it is coming from an equal and someone who is at their same standing and has the same level of understanding, presumably, about the guidelines for the community and the staff. So, this leads to arguments and disagreements between staff members that can last for quite a while and take time away from important matters, for no good reason.

They Think Their Fellow Moderators Should Be Backed Up at All Costs

In this scenario, a moderator believes that their fellow moderators should back one another up at all costs and should never be corrected, less they appear weak or give members reason to question them. While staff members shouldn’t correct one another in public, that doesn’t mean they never commit any mistakes. The attitude that staff decisions should never be corrected or changed is dangerous and just isn’t practical.

They Are Afraid of Ruffling Feathers

When I was on a staff that encouraged this sort of activity, in one way or another, I wouldn’t correct my fellow staffers on things because I didn’t have administrative backing and because I didn’t have time to argue with them about it, even though they had done something wrong.

You could argue that it was my responsibility, but I felt it was the administrator’s responsibility and not mine, as far as correcting my equals or superiors. I wasn’t afraid so much as I just didn’t want to ruffle them as it was a waste of my time. They’d just beat me down, verbally, with their “logic.”

How to Fix This

You never want your staff members to turn a blind eye to any incorrect activity or inappropriate behavior that’s practiced by a member of your staff. I don’t want my staffers to follow their fellow moderators around, but I want them to tell me if they see anything. This is clearly stated in my staff member guidelines:

If, at any time, you have an issue with another staff member or feel that they may have made a serious mistake, please contact me privately and I will handle it. Do not confront your fellow staff members on any serious issues. If you have a post removed, a decision that you made is reversed or you are otherwise corrected, please do not take it personally. Please make a note of it to prevent it from happening again and ask questions to further understand, if necessary.

It is also referenced in my situations guide:

Staff Member Violates Our Guidelines

If you feel that one of your fellow staff members has violated our guidelines, please send me a private message or e-mail at patrick@ifroggy.com. Do not remove it or do anything else. I will take care of it.

Current staff members do not get documented in Problem Users and should not be contacted by other staff members in regard to violations.

Because these things are passed to me privately, they don’t have to worry about appearing unsupportive or of ruffling feathers that they’ll have to put back into place. They know that I will consider what they say and I will contact the staff member if I have an issue with it. They pass the issue to me and that is where their issue with the staff member ends. No stress, no confrontation, no argument.

This allows me to make the determination and move forward. There is no wasting of time or debate between staff members as to whether or not something is appropriate. A decision is made, the person is informed, adjustments are made and we continue making progress and my staff members maintain their great relationships with one another, as well as with myself. This is the ideal that I believe you should strive for.

Discussion Question: Have you ever witnessed a terrible case of moderator fighting, in public or in private?