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“They Said What!?!”: Handling Inappropriate Comments on Yammer

As a Customer Success Manager, I am often asked, “How do we regulate or prevent offensive posts?” or “What do I do if someone makes a very inappropriate comment?” Fortunately, the very openness that sparks these concerns is what makes Yammer such a safe forum for businesses. With Yammer, user self-regulation and admin moderation drive appropriate, accountable posting, which eliminates the need for censorship.

But, sometimes people post offensive things and when this happens Yammer admins and champions can be unsure of how to address the comments and the poster.  This blog post was actually inspired by just such a situation, and the admirable manner in which this network administrator handled her dilemma. The head of Business Technology Advancement  at a major transportation company brought a compelling customer story to our attention on the Yammer Customer Network (YCN) when she asked her Community Management peers for advice. It seems that one colleague targeted another with a crude comment, which was only noticed after it was broadcast to the company via the daily digest email. Naturally, Employee Relations were not pleased, so the network admin set out to discover how other companies handle similar situations.

To the average Community Manager used to employee relations headaches, the initial responses on Yammer were unexpected.  Other Community Managers replied that they were able to resolve similar situations with minimal intervention, but more surprisingly, they didn’t encounter inappropriate content very frequently at all. As one Community Manager for a large network remarked, “We’ve found that it’s VERY rare for anyone to post anything that could be considered offensive – the fact that everyone’s name and photo is next to their post is an effective self-policing measure.” Violations of a network’s usage policy are not trivial, but through transparency, user education, and gentle enforcement, network admins can effectively manage these occasional instances.

Based on advice from this lively YCN thread, the network admin was able to quickly resolve the specific problem by going to that poster directly. But the larger takeaway was the decision to create and implement guidelines for dealing with difficult conversations in the future.

How to Handle Inappropriate or Offensive Posts

There are a number of ways that users and admins can address the problem and prevent future situations:

  • Talk to the Poster: Go to them privately and directly to explain why it’s inappropriate, and suggest they delete the post themselves.
  • Delete the Post: Admins can delete any post they deem violates their company’s code of conduct, at any time. Doing so will avoid drawing additional attention to the comment or person at hand, and allow you to address the misconduct in a private manner.
  • Reaffirm your Usage Policy: As Microsoft CSM Steve Nguyen commented, “This might be a good time to reinforce your usage policy with the broader network. This will serve as a gentle reminder to everyone, without calling attention to the specific post at hand.” Here’s a sample usage policy that you can adapt for your network.
  • Monitor Keywords: Admins can use this feature to track sensitive content. When a user posts a message that includes a monitored keyword or phrase, all Verified Admins are notified. Learn more about this feature on Page 14 of our Admin Guide.

Ultimately, it pays to have a plan for your organization. Work with your Yammer community managers and champions, as well as Human Resources and Employee Relations teams to develop a system and policy that works for you.

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