What's appropriate for the Forum?

Sometimes the Forum monitors have to delete posts that are inappropriate. Most are deleted because of sexual language, others because they're rude or too harsh toward another Forum member. This is nothing new, but it's become more common lately.

We really don't like being the Forum Police. We'd much rather hang out in HR-de-har-har. But we need to eliminate language that's likely to offend others, just as you do in your workplace. It's an inexact science, for sure. Here's our attempt to write down the guidelines that we've been using for a long time:

If you think a message is inappropriate, you can discuss it with the poster yourself or ask the moderator to intervene (click on "Alert" underneath the message).

We welcome your comments and discussion about what's appropriate for the Forum. You can either post a message here or e-mail me.

James Sokolowski



  • 39 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • This is a difficult topic and I'm going out on the limb by being the first poster. There have been some posts that we would probably reprimand an ee if they said the same thing. Being one of the "regulars" it is easy to get caught up in the action. But, even us regulars misunderstand each other on ocassion. As indicated in the guidelines, it can be difficult to "read" intent or tone.

    That said, I have greatly appreciated this forum. It has been a place where I can blow off steam and interact with others with similar experiences. We need to be careful not to stifle that valuable resource. Maybe, the cliche, "Don't kill the goose that lays the golden egg" applies here.

    I have belonged, and still do, to other non-HR forums where the language, attitudes, personal attacks have gone far beyond the worst we have seen here. On one forum, they have been known to suspend several people from participating - usually for a week at a time. And that included professionals. This forum is an oasis.

    Bottom line, I can sign up for the guidelines. But, I hope a vocal minority will not create problems with false accusations and feigned feelings of being offended.
  • Ray,

    Thanks for going out on a limb. I agree this is a great place to let our hair down (or what's left of our hair). It's a lot more fun than we imagined when we launched the Forum, and we sure don't want to throw a wet blanket on it. But we don't want to scare people off, either.

    And there's no vocal minority. Or a vocal majority, for that matter. Without much feedback, it's really hard for us to figure out where to draw the line. I'd love to hear from more people, including those who don't speak up very often.

    James Sokolowski

  • James and the other 'guys' at the Forum have a tough job and I wouldn't want it. I appreciate all they've done to refine this tool that we enjoy and benefit from so much, often daily. I have greatly benefited from this tool and have learned from each of you. I only hope I have contributed productively maybe once or twice.

    While I don't think we should use vulgarity or terribly barbed insults or attacks, I have a problem with the thought that the gestapo might straddle our necks each time we want to freely express ourselves. I will wait and see how that goes.

    I also will be among the vocal few who might say this is NOT an extension of the workplace and we should NOT gauge our remarks by what we would allow to be posted on the wall in our work hallway. There is no correlation and the moderators should rethink that stance. Workplaces and the labor laws that constrain them are miles apart from discussion boards where similarly employed professionals have discussions.

    To my knowledge, James has written me three times about my posts that he has deleted. I have not disagreed with his actions; however, I may have made different calls. That's his perogative. Deleting the mention of Co*doms among adults while they are being passed out in Junior High Schools might be a debatable decison; but, it's his decision and I'll abide by it.

    I surely hope we don't resort to something like deleting the day's funniest blonde joke because somebody thinks a blonde might be offended. Or restricting truly held religious beliefs from being commented on because others might have a different opinion.

    I also agree with the prior poster who asked that this thing not be guided by kneejerk reactions to a vocal imaginary group who might cry foul on a regular basis.

    I also hope sincerely that the Forum Police will use restraint and not be so prone to slam some 'gong' mechanism when they think adults need to be reined in and scolded out of some sense of power. I don't anticipate that but realize it is a possibility. It is a possibility and needs to be recognized as such.

    Finally, I was accused, and rightfully so, of probably running off some small employer who posted and I thought he was a college sophomore and my response apparently sent him into a tailspin. I apologize for that. And, I'll try to be cognizant of that. I've personally not been offended by all of you who have labelled me or remarked (wrongly) about my age or the fact that I live in the South or that I once defended a Southern symbol or that I post too often. And I did notice that none of that was deleted.

    I will continue here as long as I benefit, think I contribute and still have fun. It helps me stay sane. If not, I will leave. x:-)
  • In my opinion, there are several aspects to the forum that help it rise above other discussion groups I utilize. First, the idea that the user almost always has the same name and that the profiles are there to fill in a bit about each of us. Addint the state to the name is a nice touch. The number of posts can be an indicator of the persons experience, although in my case I have a few hundred posts, a lot of experience in the work environment, but not a lot of depth in HR.

    Finally, the email notification (the gong show) and the navigation tools, such as 'Read New' are awesome.

    But the most important part of the forum is the exchange of information, ideas and perspective by the participants. Just like the workplace, these participants have a wide range of personalities, writing styles, and senses of humor (or not). When some of the more experienced posters reply and interact with me in a discussion, I pay attention. Some of the posters with very low numbers are nonetheless, very well informed and have great input.

    While I may think some comments are not appropriate, I personally have never been offended by anyone's language. That said, someone must draw a line if for no other reason than to keep it all on the level this profession deserves. I am glad I don't have to make that call and appreciate that someone does who cares about preserving the forum.

    I would not want to see any of the regulars decide to leave because the whole thing just got too restrictive or politically correct. From a big picture perspective, the forum is diminished every time a perspective decides their input can be better appreciated somewhere else.

    I for one would rather see it a little to loose than a little too tight. That said, I don't know where that magic line is. So I xclap that a line is drawn and I request that an open mind is kept about moving it either way if it makes sense.
  • I'm jumping in too. Ican appreciate where you are coming from. But, when you are dealing with a myriad of personalities and most of them of the same genre, how can you decide which post is "inappropriate"? These mystical boundaries, they are like a line drawn in the sand. It changes with the topic.

    I do not consider the Forum an extention of my workplace. I know you do and rightfully so. It is your workplace. To me The Forum is questions and answers to tough situations. It is a place to go for a reality check. A place I can kick my shoes off and breeze through the topics. A place where I expect my colleagues to get me focused and motivated with the proverbial "kick in the a**". (Did I do that right?)

    Language that may offend, negative statements, harsh words, it all in the eye (read translation) of the beholder.

  • In regards to the statements that indicate some of our Forum members do not consider the Forum to be an extension of their workplace, I would agree with them if they're using their personal computer at home.

    But, "If it looks, talks, and walks like a duck; it must be a duck." If If it looks like we use the Forum at work, if we enter comments at work, and if we use the Forum at work; it is in fact work related. Forum entries that would otherwise be considered sexist, racist, etc outside the Forum will also be considered sexist, racist, etc within the Forum. I would hate to be the HR Director who is caught in the middle of a company sexual harrassment lawsuit and the complaintant subpoenas my computer records at work which have "non-work-related" sexist comments on them.

    I truly enjoy and benefit from the Forum. I would hate to see the "thought police" take away the Forum's spontanaity and freedom of expression, but it is still a professional tool used by we professionals in a professional setting.

    I would hate to have Jim's job of editing Forum comments, but someone needs to do it. I don't know where to draw the line in regards to inappropriateness, but I do know a line must be drawn somewhere. As a daily reader and sometime contributer, I think the line has been drawn appropriately up to this point.

    James, thanks for your vigilance and effort. Keep up the good work!
  • Just as there is an OFF button on our TV sets for questionable viewing, it only takes one mouse click to exit a post. One of the best parts of this forum is to glean ideas and opinions from others who have been there and done that. Maybe some posts have been a little "harsh" but I consider that to be a learning tool that one may use and after all, opinions were asked for and the last time I checked, the government had not established any laws to censor opinions. You can go to your favorite local eating establishment and hear much worse language than has been written on the forum and you can't turn that off and I'm sure you would go back because even though they may not have Deep Fried Turkey on the menu, you like the food.
  • Thanks for understanding our need for some standards here. Let me underscore one thing from James's original post -- these guidelines aren't new. We've been using them all along. They're just no longer secret. So we don't think you'll really notice much of a change, because we've been whacking the "offending" posts anyway. Perhaps by making them public, we'll find that we have less need to whack anything.

    Also, please understand that while to one another you are somewhat anonymous colleagues, to us you are also customers. So we have an obligation to make sure other customers aren't offended or hurt by Forum participation -- or frightened off.

    Brad Forrister
    Director of Publishing
    M. Lee Smith Publishers

  • I visit this website because I believe it to be is a human resources website with the intent of addressing HR’s everyday challenges. To me it is not a political, religious, or sexual forum … it is a place to test the waters of HR policies and practices regarding many subjects in the workplace.

    I observe and read messages more often than I respond. I have noticed that as the population increased on the Forum, so did the wacky posts. With almost 5,000 participants, I’m sure there are many free spirited souls who could care less how offensive a message might get, and there are just as many who oppose what they deem to be inappropriate posts. I’m surely not saying that the new participants are the offenders, but that we now have more buttons to push and more button pushers.

    I don’t envy the Forum Police their task of trying to maintain our focus on HR matters while allowing us to freely express ourselves. I absolutely agree that the FP should not overreact on a regular basis to “slips of the tongue”. (It could be detrimental to the free flow of information that keeps us coming back to this place.) BUT, if we don’t monitor ourselves and behave professionally, then the FP will do it for us.

    I will now step back into my corner of the room.
  • I knew I shouldn't have gone out of town. Everything happens when I'm gone. Well, at least they didn't bring the picture of the woman in the masthead back. Thank goodness for small favors.

    As one of the people who is undoubtedly an irritant from time to time (well, okay, probably consistently), I can appreciate the need for limitations on the degree of earnestness one encounters in the Forum. As an HR practitioner, I expect such restrictions in our workplace. As a human being with opinions, I resent them (or at least the degree to which they have been carried in our society).

    To me, this Forum has always been like a college classroom where a bunch of students studying the same subject are sitting around a table and sharing opinions and observations regarding the topic at hand. And, as in college (at least when I was in college), no opinion was unwelcome, so long as it was respectfully submitted. Coupled with the fact that often only HR people understand the frustrations of other HR people, this Forum can represent a haven as well as a tool.

    Having babbled on without making a firm stand on any side of this issue, let me finish my fence straddling by stating that I would hate to see the Forum become so restrictive that it loses its character, its charm and its value. The moment it starts to look like a luncheon of my local (insert-professional-association-name-here) chapter, I'm outta here. x;-)
  • I want to thank everyone for your feedback, here and by e-mail - even the people who think I've gone off the deep end. I'd love to hear from more people.

    We don't want the Forum to lose its character (or its characters). But I think most of us would agree that it's necessary draw the line somewhere, and that line will always be subjective.

    The Forum is much more rough-and-tumble than it's ever been. This has caused some of our customers to leave and never return. Others are reluctant to participate. I can't say I blame them.

    So I wrote down the unwritten guidelines that we've followed for two-and-a-half years. All of the Forum moderators signed off on them.

    This isn't a dainty tea party. We're just trying to draw the line in the right place.

    James Sokolowski

  • James,

    You and the staff there are doing a great job. It is hard to determine sometimes what is or isn't going to be offensive. Others are clear cut. Sometimes even we HR professionals need a little reminder on how to behave. I do agree with those that said that if it becomes too restrictive, it will cease to be a fun place to go to release the frustrations of a typical day in the HR world.

    As one who does more observing on the serious side of the forum, I've noticed that it can and does go off track sometimes. I have not ever felt particularly upset by most of the posts, but once or twice I may have felt a little uncomfortable with the "tone" of a post. Knowing the alert button is there, and knowing that there are others out there doing their job of keeping us on track, makes me feel good about still coming here day after day.
    (As work allows, of course! x:D)

    I for one still enjoy coming here and would say something to you or a member of the staff if I felt that it's gotten bad enough for me to leave.

    Keep up the good work!
  • Hi James - I know that I'm one of the offenders when it comes to writing provocative/harsh posts - I don't deny it - I also write nice, helpful and knowledgeable posts as well - it's a two way street I guess. When I get slammed by someone, or when I slam them, it usually ends up in an apology or a further discussion of ideas. What a great place to see people continuing to communicate with each other, even when they disagree - sometimes very strongly - rather than shutting down and walking away.

    I won't kid you, I've been hurt by some of the slams I've received by my forum buddies and I understand how I have hurt others feelings - we're all not perfect, but in generating opinions, thoughts, skills, knowledge, experience, I would rather have someone dislike me on the forum, or myself dislike a forum member, than to cut off the stream of talent that I glean from the forum.

    I don't know the answer for how to communicate to new members about how the forum operates - it really isn't a workplace, it really isn't politically correct, and not every response is going to be a warm and fuzzy one - maybe you could use the college setting analogy in the "How To" section as a means of explaining the posting interactions and processes?

    I'll try to bite my tongue more and if I feel like I have to do it too much when posting, then I'll go someplace else to post, rather than to continue to offend or become subject to the FP. Thanks for bringing this topic up - it gives me much to think about. x:-)

  • Mandy, this subscription to HR Hero is paid for by my company and I use it at my workplace. The purpose was to keep me and my department updated on employment law and for assistance with HR issues. To me, this is definitely a workplace tool. I feel that since people do pay for this tool, no one person or persons who post should determine how the forum operates. I had assumed that was the function of the owners of the sight or whomever they employ. I think the forum must be user friendly to all who would like to participate. If there are rules explaining the posting interactions and processes, then I don't know what they are either. I do agree that a side benefit has been the unique personalities and the humor that adds relief to often frustrating and preplexing HR issues and I would not want to see that disappear. I know that my perspective is not shared by most, but I am certain that it will be respected.


  • All of us Forum moderators want to say thanks to everyone who has added to this thought-provoking discussion. As we finish this year and go into the next, feel free to let us know what you think -- either by posting a message or e-mailing me or the weekly moderator.

    Meanwhile, it's almost time to think about starting my Christmas shopping. :-S

    James Sokolowski
  • Just about anything from Sharper Image will work for me.x;-)
  • James, there's this calendar, suitable for framing, cheap too....
  • Where's the alert button? I think the thread is digressing.
  • I'm an occasional visitor to this forum. I tend to go in spurts, consistent with the variations in my workload. I haven't been to the forum in a couple of weeks, but today, my last work day of the year, finds me with some extra time to peruse topics. So, the following is input from a very irregular, or is that non-regular x:-/ ? participant.

    To be honest, the posts I enjoy the most are the ones that have dissension, debate, and disagreement without deteriorating into personal abuse (how do you like my fluency with "d" words?!x:7 ). I find that I learn more from posts that offer a variety of opinions, even more so when the opinions are strongly worded. It helps me to question my beliefs and opinions about subjects and be a better informed professional.

    Since I'm an infrequent visitor, I guess I've missed posts that had to be deleted so I don't have a feel for how good a job the forum police do. I like the general reference in the guidelines that posts aren't automatically deleted based on an assumption of intent to harm. Instead, you prefer to wait to let the posters work it out or declare it as joking and good-natured ribbing. That's good common sense of letting adults be adults.

    You can pretty easily determine who the "regulars" are and "learn" their posting personalities by reading threads. They each seem to have unique styles while they add value to the forum. I can't imagine someone being "frightened" off by a post response. I know that one of my posts (many months ago) received a strong reply by someone who then followed up with a personal e-mail to apologize if I took his reply as a personal attack. I sure didn't take it that way and can stand up for myself.

    Ok, I've rambled enough, and probably didn't add much value to the discussion. Just want to say it's a great tool (yes it's a business tool to me, with a component of personal development) and thank you HRHero for providing it! Happy Holidays everyone!xhugs
  • Thank you very much for your reply. I think you stated our objectives very well. We understand that the Forum is an area for opinions and debate and we want to encourage an environment that will bolster those goals.

    Anne Williams
    Attorney Editor
    M. Lee Smith Publishers, LLC
  • This forum is a great place and I wouldn't want to have the job of determining where the line between passionate debate and good natured teasing crosses over into personal attack or offensive language.

    I would like to think that the forum is a community of reasonable adults who would self-censor any individual member who was being obnoxious or spiteful.

    As people get to know eachother through the forum there is the danger of a "club" atmosphere developing. Inside jokes, alliances, etc.. I wouldn't want to see that happen.

    On the other hand, I assume we are all adults and we can speak for ourselves, defend ourselves, and laugh at ourselves when appropriate.

    Of course, I haven't been around much lately so maybe things are worse than they used to be.
  • Regarding Don's zapped comment, I found it interesting that the characterization of Cajun-Americans (is that PC enough?) he used is (or at least was) also the motto of the Louisiana National Guard - the "c***-**s militia." Back in the late 80s, Louisiana's Adjutant General (who was African-American)was being pressured to change the motto and his response was something like, "Not only no, but h*** no!" His rationale was that it was a point of pride and tradition among all members of the LNG and he would not tinker with tradition. So, it appears that we here in the Forum are expected to be more PC than a government agency, huh? x:-)
  • I've seen more symbols (**@&;&) in some of the recent posts than I have letters. It's becoming a challenge to read the posts.

    Here's my suggestion: let the readers hit ALERT if it concerns them, until then, back off. Isn't that the purpose of the ALERT button anyway?
  • James - you have to at least appreciate the irony that you have started one of the more controversial threads by raising the subject. :)

    Perhaps in addition to the HR de Har Har section we need a "Questonable and provocative content - enter at your own risk!" section. Of course, it would quickly become the most popular area.

  • Another forum I have visited has a section called the "Back Alley". No holds barred.
  • Paul has been absent, and did error in the understanding, nonetheless, when he is gone I miss his imput just as I miss yours, Don. While he may have joined late and jumped to the wrong conclusion this time. . I don't recall it happening often "once again", but am sure you will correct me if I am wrong.
  • It is a shame that this has turned into what it has. In the battle to get in the last word, some people have resorted to insults. Rather than explain what may have been misunderstood, we'd rather take shots at each other. A fine example of HR management.

    I've made my own comments about the censorship, I've expressed my opinion, but it's time to move on. If our employees retaliated in such a way, at censoring decisions or policy changes, HR would be in a position to decide whether that employee was to remain part of the team or not. When it comes right down to it, we don't own this website, we don't make the final decision.

    I tend to listen to all of you more than participate because I feel that you all know so much more than me, with my 2-year history in HR. Thank you for putting into perspective that seniority doesn't necessarily mean you're right, it doesn't crown you with automatic wisdom. The childish / rude posts that have been going back and forth are evidence of that.

    Go ahead, prolong this a little longer, who's next with getting in the last word?
  • I'm just happy it wasn't me.x;-)
  • I am relatively new to this forum, and am, therefore, probably speaking out of turn to some of the veterans out there. But it seems to me that the purpose and benefit of the forum is to offer CONSTRUCTIVE help and support to answer questions and concerns that others in the field are experiencing.

    I got a rather condescending response to one of the questions that I posted a while back, and have seen others with similar reply postings from forum participants which basically amounted to personal attacks on the person writing the question. Granted, I can't judge your tone when you write something, but I don't generally see the benefit of this type of exchange. People log on to this service because they have what they believe are legitimate questions, not to have someone berate them for being stupid, wet behind the ears, etc.

    I don't know that these comments should be "censored," but I do think that forum participants should remember why we are all here and recall the days when they did not know all the answers to the everyday tough questions you get when you deal with personnel matters. If you are on the forum just to vent your frustrations with life onto some unsuspecting soul in some far away state, I don't think that is a beneficial use of the forum.

    Basically, I guess I am saying that I think we should all play fair in the sandbox, and I do realize that not everybody plays by the same set of rules as to how they interact with strangers at the park. But I never did understand the kids that threw sand just because they could...that's my two cents and I'm stickin' to it...

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