I have a suggestion for a topic (as if you need more, right?):  Maybe the title is “Don’t answer that. Be a professional.”

One of the smartest things an old boss told me was “If it’s past 4:00, don’t answer that email – chances are, you won’t be saying what you think you’re saying.” (This is especially good advice when the email is combative/confrontational/urgent, which makes responding seem that  much more urgent).

I’m in publishing. In publishing, we get very few ‘atta-boys’ from readers or advertisers. Most of what we hear is about how wrong we are. A lot of the letters require a response, but some time of day are better than others to reply to those notes.

It goes beyond answering emails. I run two pretty big websites both of which have discussion forums. The sites are for professionals. I recently had to ban two people from one of the sites because of their combative behavior. A lot of the poor choices in what people write is (it seems) because people can’t resist the urge to answer others ‘right now.’ Some people even go through and delete the posts they wrote earlier.
I frequently find myself wanting to tell forum participants the same things I tell my 6 and 10 year old kids: “If you act like a jerk, you get treated like a jerk. Don’t act like a jerk”

When I’m deep in the depths adults-acting-like-children, I find myself listening to Manager Tools podcasts—not necessarily because I’m interested in the topic, but because I know that the voices I hear will speak professionally and help me to get back into the proper mindset for dealing with kid-ults.

Maybe (please?) you could give us a general podcast that we can listen to in times of need— sort of an ‘In case of emergency break glass’ podcast for remaining professional when it seems like your whole world is deteriorating into unprofessionalism.

On a side note, I’m interested a conversation with whomever is moderating this forum (Wendii?)–

  • How much time do you spend on it?
  • Have you had to ban anyone yet?
  • How do you nudge people towards civility when they gravitate towards combativeness?
  • Do you have a protocol for bullies?

Than ks for all the help,


Mark's picture
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I can see where that message needs to be spread.

Regarding the forums:

We spend almost no time "moderating".  That said, I just finished writing a cast tonight (it's 1 am), and discovered someone had posted to a thread about the umbrella story which was just a link to their business, selling patio umbrellas.  I mean, really...?  I just deleted it.

(To be fair, I am only recently back in the forums.  One of my great regrets in the past couple of years was not being here.  My comments here only really address when I have been here regularly, though for the first 2-3(?) years, I was here every day.  Trying to do that more)

When I'm here, I probably spend longer than anyone at MT because I answer lots of questions.  But it's fun.  Maybe a half hour a day, sometimes longer, sometimes not at all.

I have banned one person, as I recall, though Wendii may remember differently the subtleties of the situation. They behaved...inappropriately. 

I have told a few (3? 5?) to be nice or I would ban them.  I think you can find a thread still up where some would say I spanked someone pretty hard.  (As I recall, I said, "be good or be gone.")  This is different from me saying they're wrong, which sometimes I also do and some people REALLY don't like.  But I'm not trying to be popular,  I'm trying to give helpful recommendations.  I believe my voice ought to, and does, have more weight, but some new folks don't know that and I have to tell them the person who is advising them ought not be heeded.

I've posted a few times telling folks to tone it down.  No big deal.  I recall that everyone seemed to be okay afterwards.  They may hate me, but I don't care.  What I want is behavior.

I don't think we have any bullies, but if we did, we wouldn't need a protocol.  This is mine and Mike's house.  We don't like you, you're out.  And we don't like bullies.

This is a place for professionals by our insistence.  We're lucky to have a bunch of fantastic members who behave like professionals and help each other.  It's like being a manager of a team of all-stars.  Mostly you just let them go, and rack up the wins.

Thank you all for being so wonderful that it's not a hassle to write something like this at 130 am.

jhack's picture


The MT forums are a rare jewel. The conversations are troll-free, the participants respectful, and good faith permeates. 

It's a tribute to Mark, Mike, and Wendii that MT attracts serious professionals.  Snark, provocation, and negativity can't gain traction because the community is comprised of good people.  As Mark points out, there are disagreements, some folks are passionate about their beliefs, and sometimes posters are wrong (and on all those I can speak from experience!)   Yet ad hominem attacks and deliberate provocations are extremely rare - the discussion revolves around the topic. 


An acknowledgment:  Forum participation is time consuming.  An insightful and helpful comment is the result of reflection and careful word craft.  Mark, Mike and Wendii, thank you for your time and commitment to the forums. 

John Hack

Mark's picture
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John writes very nice thank you notes.  In moving my office, I came across one he wrote a couple of years ago, and it reminded why we do this: for you all.  



dmorrison's picture

The forum attached to my website is pretty darned professional, just a few less-than-ideal types. Two of them got their walking papers last week. One of them continues to be a pain in the neck -- badgering customer service and the president of the company. Yesterday I spent about four hours digging through the past muck to prepare her (president) for a five-minute call to the bad seed.

Surprising how people just do not get that their behavior is cumulative. The final straw doesn't seem so big on paper, but it's the 7,000 events leading up to it that ultimately sealed his fate.

As if one other participant was trying to help me make the point of the topic suggestion ('Don't answer that'/Don't click 'send,' etc) minutes after I posted a nicely-written note on the banning, he posted a graphic with a fork sticking out of the road and a few words  suggesting that we're not a credible source of information anymore and that we're done.

I sent him a private email saying "Really? How does this move the conversation forward, John? Can you please explain that to me?"

After a couple of days he responded:

"I don't really have an explanation. I guess I was angry and acted out. There is really no reason for me to protest or campaign for Robert any more. I realize that the decision is final. I took my silly graphic down."

This from a very talented and intelligent architect. I've toured some of his houses and they are very, very well done. I can't imaging that he would act that way in a business meeting if a client or partner said something that he disagreed with.

Anyway, it's nice to see that there is at least one polite forum out there.

Dan Morrison