310: Managing Moderation Teams

A moderation team is a group of people from all over the world with diverse backgrounds and different experiences, working together to not only maintain structure inside a community but nurture that community as well. Managing such a team is a straining task but extremely important to the overall health of a community. In this article, you’ll get an in-depth look into what you need to establish and maintain a positive and productive environment within your moderation team.

Getting to Know Your Team

Above all else, the foundation of a good moderation team is familiarity. By knowing your fellow moderators better, what they do, or where they live, you’ll relate to them better. You’ll get to know people’s strengths and weaknesses, learn to understand them better, and get a feeling for when they need help, and vice versa. Though you all may be in different time zones and have diverse backgrounds you’re all working towards the same goal which is keeping the community you all care for safe. Who knows- you might find that you share a lot of the same interests along the way, make great new friends, or deepen existing friendships during your time together as moderators.

Here are a few basic things you should do to familiarize with each other:

  • Introducing yourself. Let moderators post a small introduction about themselves for existing and new moderators. This will give everyone in the team a basic understanding of where they’re coming from.
  • Engage new moderators. Just like in any relationship, talking with each other is a part of the process. Engage new moderators with conversations, and make them feel welcome in the team.
  • Keep in touch with moderators. Offer help to your moderators, or check on them if they haven’t been seen for a while. Sharing positive feedback is also a great way to stay in touch with your moderators! Positive, specific feedback is one of the best ways to recognize all of the hard, often thankless work, that your moderators do.
  • Maintain a channel for off topic discussions. Keep a channel for casual conversations for your moderators, letting them talk about their interests and getting to know each other better. Just because they’re here in a position of power does not mean that they’re incapable of having fun or talking about things outside of the immediate state of the server.
  • Hold Voice Chat Sessions. While talking through text is great- especially when trying to get more long form thoughts across- encouraging people to hop into voice to speak more casually can help to keep your mods personable and engaged with one another if they can put a voice to their fellow mods’ usernames.
Allocating Resources

A moderation team needs a clear structure and a unified understanding of server moderation, which has already been covered in a previous segment: 302 - Developing moderator guidelines. Now we’re going to expand on how to utilize each and every single moderator's abilities further. A moderation team can range from a few members in a small server to a huge team with 30 or more staff depending on the server size. The bigger your community gets the more the team needs to be organized. While they are all moderators, it doesn’t mean they all do the same job.

Some of your moderators, especially experienced moderators, are likely to be in more administrative positions. They usually stay further away from general day-to-day channel moderation while newer moderators are focused on watching conversations and enforcing the server rules. 

If you do have one of these larger mod teams, consider delegating certain moderators to tasks and responsibilities that they’d be best suited for, rather than having a jack of all trades, master of none situation. This allows to divide the team into smaller sub-teams that talk to each other more frequently in designated channels regarding their specific mod duties.

Here are a few examples of sub-teams that are common within larger communities:

Example 1: Chat Moderators

Moderators that primarily contribute to the community by enforcing rules, watching conversations, engaging members, solving member to member conflicts and showing moderation presence. The same type of moderators could also exist for Voice Channels, but that is mostly for very large communities.

Example 2: Bot Managers

Moderators that are extremely familiar with permissions, bots, programming, etc. Ideally, they aren’t just able to operate bots you’re using, but also maintain them. A custom bot tailored to your community is always something to consider. Having a bot hosted “in-house” by a moderator within your team adds an additional layer of security. The Bot Team is very valuable in making new and creative ideas possible and especially in automating day-to-day processes. 

Example 3: Event Supervisors

Most servers host events, from community run events to events run by staff members. Event Supervisors watch over the community members hosting events, watching out for new events, while being the general point of communication in hosting and announcing them. 

These are ways of how moderators can be utilized better by giving them a designated job depending on your team's size, and also giving them the ability to dive into certain topics of moderation more in-depth within your community, which overall makes managing and coordinating a team as a whole easier.

Decision Making

As server size and the number of moderators increases, the harder it becomes to hear every voice and opinion. As a team, decisions need to be made together, they need to be consistent, equitable, and take into account as many different opinions as possible.

It’s important to establish a system, especially when making big decisions. Often, there are decisions that need to be done right at the very moment. For example, when someone posts offensive content. In most cases, a moderator will act on their perception of the rules and punish offenders accordingly. At that very moment, the offending content has to be removed, leaving little to no time to gather a few staff members and make a decision together. This is where consistency comes into play. The more your moderators share equal knowledge and the same mindset, the more consistent moderation actions get. This is why it’s important to have moderator guidelines and a clear structure.

It’s very important to give every moderator freedom so they don’t have to ask every time before they can take action, but it’s also important to hear out as many opinions on any major server changes as possible, if time allows it.

Growth

Over time, a moderation team grows. They grow in many ways, in their abilities, in the number of moderators, but also grow together as a team. Every new moderation team will face challenges they need to overcome together and every already established team will face new situations that they have to adapt to and deal with. It’s important to give a moderator something to work towards. Mods should look forward to opportunities that will strengthen their capabilities as a moderator and strengthen the team’s performance as a whole.

You should let moderators know that they have the potential for growth in their future as a moderator. It can be something like specializing into specific topics of moderation, like introducing them into managing or setting up bots. Perhaps over time they will progress to a senior moderator and focus more on the administrative side of things. 

The Discord Mod Academy can be a valuable resource in encouraging moderator growth as well. While they may be familiar with some of the concepts in the Discord Moderation Academy, no moderator can know everything and these articles have the potential to further refine their moderation knowledge and enhance their abilities.

Professionalism

Moderators are direct representatives of your community and as such should be a reflection of what an ideal community member looks like. Many things tie into showing this professionalism, ranging from how moderators chat with members in public to consistency in moderator actions. 

The presence of a moderator should never make people uncomfortable - there needs to be a fine line between “I can chat with this moderator like with any other member” and “This is a moderator and I need to take what he’s saying serious”. 

Here are a few attributes in what makes a moderation team look and be professional:

  • Competency. A moderator needs to be able to express moderation knowledge and articulate themselves well, so they can explain any actions taken on members with competence.

  • Reliability. The team should plan ahead of time, and a moderator should commit to what they say they would deliver, and if they can’t, they should take responsibility for it.

  • Integrity. Moderators are also a contributory factor of morality, ethics and equality and should demonstrate being the golden standard to their community.

  • Self-control. A moderator will often face the situation of members not agreeing to actions taken against them. In those often heated conversations with an irate member, moderators need to keep self control by staying calm and resolving the issue.

  • Professional Image. Moderators need to maintain a professional image- this includes things like choosing your profile picture, status, nickname, or any other highly visible identifiers wisely. While typing quirks and a friendly tone can go a long way to engender familiarity among your server members, when engaging in moderator actions it’s also important to say things in a way that are definitive and official. It’s hard to take a moderator seriously when they’re typing with tons of grammar mistakes and sporting a borderline nsfw profile picture.

Your team should share positivity, engage conversation, show respect for others and maintain a professional look. Make it clear to your moderation team that they are a highly visible and perhaps incredibly scrutinized group within your community- and to conduct themselves appropriately with those aspects in mind. 

Problem Solving 

As with all group efforts, there is a possibility for friction to occur within a moderation team. This is undoubtedly something that you’re all going to have to address at some point in your mod team’s lifespan. It’s very important to deal with these situations as soon as they come up. Many people don't feel comfortable dealing with conflict directly as it can be uncomfortable. However, getting to any potential problems before they become serious can prevent more severe issues from cropping up in the future. The goal of a problem-solving process is to make a moderation team more conflict-friendly. 

As a general problem solving process, you should: 

  • Identify the issue a moderator/a group of moderators/or a member has
  • Understand the opinions and interests of everyone
  • List and evaluate possible solutions
  • Settle on a satisfactory solution

With that in mind, there are also situations where you’d want to exercise more discretion. Something that might prompt this is when a moderator makes a mistake. 

It can be both uncomfortable and embarrassing to be “called out” for something, so often enough the best option is to speak to someone privately if you think they’ve made a mistake. After the moderator understands the situation and acknowledges the mistake, the problem can be talked about with the rest of the team, mainly to prevent situations like these in the future. 

Still, sometimes there are situations where problems can’t be solved and things get more and more heated, and in the end separating is unavoidable. Moderators leave on their own or have to be removed. Your team members should always be given the option to take a break from moderation- especially to avoid burnout. You can learn more about how to deal with moderator burnout in course 431.

Reviewing

Taking a moment to look back at the history and progression of your community and your mod team can be a useful way to evaluate where your team is at and where it needs to be. The time frame can be of your choosing, but some common intervals can be monthly, quarterly, or half year. 

You don’t always get to talk with your moderators every day - most of us volunteer, moderating as a hobby, having our own lives while living scattered all over the world. With all of that going on it can be hard to find the time or space to discuss things that you might feel are lacking or could be changed regarding the server, and that’s why reviewing is important.

A Community Review can be done in many ways. For most, a channel asking a few basic questions, like how the community has developed since the last review, how activity and growth has changed, is a good way to start. Most importantly, you want to hear how the moderation team is doing. Talk about mistakes that have happened recently, how they can be prevented, and review some of the moderator actions that have been taken. A review allows everyone to share their thoughts, see what everyone is up to, and deal with more long term issues. It also allows giving your moderators feedback on their performance.

Summary

The essence of managing a moderation team is to be open-minded, communicate and to listen to each other. Endeavor to manage decisions and confront problems in an understanding, calm, and professional way. Give moderators the opportunity to grow, designated tasks, but also time to review, break and rest. Remember, you’re in this together!