Calling In for Community Managers: When to Call In

Previously on Calling in for Community Managers: an Introduction

The highest priority of any community organizer is the care and wellbeing of community members. When something happens that is outside of expected behavior, it needs to be addressed in relation to the behavior itself, and as quickly as possible! Depending on the severity of the situation, calling in may not work. 

However, I find that in friendly communities (like WordPress!) I can use calling in more often than not. Here are a few questions I ask myself before deciding on how to bring awareness to the problematic language or behavior.

What is the risk to the community?

For the safety of a community, unacceptable behavior should be treated as such. Intimidation, harassment, abuse, discrimination, are all examples of behavior that should not be tolerated. In WordPress, the vast majority of incidents are not so threatening as to result in a ban (in fact, the community rarely implements bans). Most situations are undeniably uncomfortable and will involve painful feelings, however. If it’s not unacceptable behavior that necessitates stricter responses, calling in is a strong option. 

Does this person regularly follow community guidelines? 

If this person has a history of repeated problematic behavior that has been addressed already, calling in becomes less and less effective. However, if they regularly behave within community expectations, calling in is a great approach to guide them back into expected community behavior territory. 

What do I think was the intent behind the behavior?

Remember – the impact of the language or behavior is of more importance than intent – we can have the best intentions, but if our actions negatively affect others, that’s the lasting result and impact over any intention. 

However, when deciding how to bring awareness to problematic behavior, it’s helpful to reflect on the intent behind it. Someone who is acting out of malice has very different intentions than someone who was acting out of a misguided impulse. Did they want to hurt or ostracize another community member? Or was it an honest mistake, and they don’t see or understand the impact of their actions? Calling in works best for people who have good intentions, and helps bring that awareness to the result of their actions.

How receptive will this person be to calling in? Are they likely to adapt their behavior?

When thinking about calling in, it’s helpful to think about how the person will respond. In this case, it’s helpful if you already know them to some extent. I’m far more confident in the success of calling in if I feel that the person will welcome it and work to change their behavior. 

However, as an organizer of a global community, there’s a chance that I may not know the person! In the WordPress community, we assume best intent, so unless something tells me otherwise, I’ll still move forward with calling in, even if I don’t know how it will go. 

I’ve responded to many incidents in the WordPress community, and most resulted in calling in. And I’ll tell you now, it’s hard from all angles. It’s awful to be the subject of problematic behavior, it’s nerve wracking to initiate a conversation about the behavior, and it’s uncomfortable to learn that you’ve hurt someone so deeply. But the win of calling in is acknowledgement and understanding of pain caused, and alignment for a stronger and safer community. 

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