this is not an outlet for your grouchiness

I don’t know what’s going on in the comments section this past week, but this has generally been a reasonably respectful place where personal attacks are unusual, until this week when there’s been a sudden outbreak of nastiness. I’m not sure if it’s been the week-long “ask the readers” series or what, but I’m not happy about it.

It’s no more appropriate to be nasty to other commenters here than it would be to come into my home and be a jerk to my other guests. Cut it out.

The only thing I can think of to do is to turn on comment moderation, but I really don’t want to do that … so please consider this a call to return to the civility that typically reigns here.

{ 72 comments… read them below }

    1. Rooney*

      I do blame it on the “Ask the Readers” segment, actually. We (generally) agree with Alison’s advice because of her intelligence and level of experience. (And her all-around awesomeness.) But when readers provide the advice, I think it opens the door to more divisive reactions.

      I’d suggest doing away with that segment entirely.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s hard to ignore that the week it happened was the week that I did an “ask the readers” every day. That segment is going away for a good long while :) Or, at least, if it comes back, it’ll be for questions less likely to provoke hostility.

        1. Riki*

          If you bring it back, I think it would be helpful if the letters included a more detail. The “elderly” and “left out coworkers” were somewhat vague. Based on the content of the original letters, they came off like “My old coworker can’t use a computer. And she’s mean. Mean and old.” and “The coworker clique makes the rest of the staff feel weird.” This left a lot of room for interpretation, assumption and snark. For example, it would have been helpful to know why the coworkers felt left out. Was it just a social thing or did it carry over into work?

          Also, ITA with Rooney. Being a supervisor was (is?) your salaried position and you are Ask A Manager. So, you’re not only offering advice as a real-life supervisor, but as a consultant and writer. Most people filter things through their experiences and may not spend as much time looking at a situation from all sides.

          Anyway, trollers are going to troll. The only way to eliminate that completely would be if you approved all comments before posting (time consuming for you) or eliminated commenting all together (sadness for us commenters!).

        2. Liz in a Library*

          It is true that things have been worse this week. But…I’ve noticed a tendency among commenters to shut down posters and commenters who civilly dissent from the majority for quite a while. It’s not usually no nasty, but it’s enough that it makes someone who isn’t a “regular” a little hesitant to join the discussion. I’ve been reading for years, but have only felt comfortable enough to comment for the past few months…

          Just another opinion.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That’s good to know. I tend to argue for my own viewpoint pretty vigorously when I feel strongly that it’s right and others are wrong, but I don’t want that to discourage others from dissenting!

            1. Jamie*

              I see this as one of the most valuable things about your blog.

              It’s not just about the exact situations being discussed by any OP, but both you and the commenters (I’ve decided that it’s a word) always touch on more global workplace/management issues.

              When someone has been in management for a while it’s easy to become complacent and start thinking you have all (or most) of the answers. Reading responses from others can help you see your own workplace issues sans the politics and personal agendas of our own co-workers.

              The problems start when people stop debating ideas and start attacking each other. Passionately stating your case because you feel you’re right and someone might benefit from your insight is great. When it stopping being about proving one’s idea and instead becomes all about disproving someone else for the sake of it – that’s when it stops being fun.

  1. Anonymous*

    I thought you had calmed down that whole thing down in your latest post about the man who had gone bankrupt and needed your advice on how to deal with a rigid company. Earlier, I saw that everything seemed to be fine, but then I just saw this and thought “uh oh!” Sure enough go back to that particular comment section a commenter under the name of “Daisy” just totally ripped him to shreds! And then after he called her out on it, she continued to tell him how to spend or not spend his money. Wow!

  2. Rana*

    Oof. Well, if we can’t behave like civilized adults here, then we deserve to be moderated. I hope it doesn’t come to that.

  3. Brook*

    Thanks for this. I don’t comment often, but I read your blog constantly, and I think that you’re right to defend this space. I think most commenters treat this blog as a place to collaboratively solve problems, which I really enjoy. Unfortunately, much like a workplace, one bad egg allowed to fester will stink up the whole place.

  4. Brandy*

    I didn’t have a chance to check out the comments much this week but I hate when things get nasty. Good for you for sticking up for your space!!

  5. Kate*

    I’ve also had my head buried in a pile of work this week so have not had the ‘pleasure’ of observing said jerkiness first hand. That said, it’s a shame. Part of the value of this blog is the (usually) helpful and insightful nature of readers’ comments. Let’s keep it that way.

  6. Laura M.*

    Thanks for posting this Alison! Usually, things on this blog aren’t rude but with more and more people commenting, things can get out of hand. I really appreciate that you actually read all the comments and notice when things aren’t as they should be. I like interchange of ideas, but aggressive and harsh comments don’t promote that.

  7. ES*

    Good reminder.

    On a cheerier note, thanks to a lot of your advice, I landed a job that I am starting next week. Thanks for sharing all your words of wisdom!

    1. Ali*

      Fantastic! I also got a new job this week partially due to the advice here…but what I really got out of the advice here was the ability to negotiate! Not only did I get a new job, but I was able to negotiate it to work from home 3 days a week and at the salary I wanted! Thanks, Allison!

  8. Josh S.*

    Step 1: Don’t feed the trolls.
    Step 2: Don’t feed the trolls, even when they’re being jerks.
    Step 3: Don’t feed the trolls, especially when they’re being jerks.
    Step 4: If someone is normally a respectful commenter, but they’re being a jerk today, correct them nicely. Say, “Hey! Your opinion is welcome but your tone is not. Please back off/lighten up a bit!” Community correction and self-moderation by the commenters themselves is the only way to have a really good community of commenters.
    Step 5: Remember that you shouldn’t feed the trolls.

    1. Josh S.*

      @AAM: Also keep in mind that this is one nasty commenter out of dozens (if not hundreds). And hopefully she’s been shamed out of the site. I think we have a good group of commenters here who are respectful, helpful, and generally positive, and there’s really not much else to be said about it.

      People who troll and inflict their own personal issues on the rest of us are just looking for an audience. Deny them that and they’ll go away.

      1. Elizabeth*

        I’m not sure it was all one commenter, as there were multiple different names associated with the comments that I thought crossed a line into unwarranted personal attacks or snarkiness.

    2. Ellie H*

      I agree with your attitude in general but I have something of a personal vendetta against misuse of the term “troll.” It’s supposed to refer to somebody who deliberately writes a post intended to provoke a strong reaction or a strong opposition, simply to stir up trouble, and often it’s not even an opinion that the troll genuinely holds. I think some comments on this blog are definitely by jerks, but I can’t remember seeing any legit trolling here.

  9. Aaron*

    If this continues to be a problem, one thing you could do is turn off reply posts. It’s a lot easier to be annoyingly impolite when you’re replying to one specific post you disagree with than when you’re offering your own thoughts, starting from scratch.

  10. Anonymous*

    Oh, come now. You intentionally pick provocative topics, guaranteed to garner lots of strong feelings (and bump up your page views), and then you want to act surprised when nasty commentors come out? Especially when you pimp your blog out on national media sites? Can you really be this innocent, or are you trying to dodge responsibility for your own blog?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You’re off-base here. I’ve never done anything with the intention of bumping up page views; I could care less about traffic, don’t know anything about SEO, etc. My goal is to put out good, interesting content that I would want to read myself, for personal satisfaction more than anything else. And yes, I am surprised when after 4-1/2 years of respectful conversation, that changes dramatically in a one-week period.

      1. Joey*

        Sorry, but i think anonymous has a point. While I think most of your content is generally relevant and helpful there have been a few posts sprinkled here and there that are so ridiculous or so off topic that I can’t help but wonder your intentions. The post abouT the husband who wanted his wife’s old boyfriends work emails comes to mind.

          1. Laura*

            That one was interesting. And as for “pimping” your blog? I’ve never gotten that impression. The asking the wife’s work for email copies was an interesting one and one that brought up a lot of important issues. Keep doing what you’ve been…the trolls will get bored and leave.

          2. Joey*

            Let me elaborate so you have some context. Obviously I deal with or have dealt with a lot of the same or similar issues that are discussed here. One of the really valuable things your blog gives me is the perspective of employees and job seekers outside my organization. The times that your blog is less valuable to me is when I see topics that are so out there or so crazy most reasonable employees or job seekers know better. Sure I’ve had my fair share of those too, but the when just about anyone can answer the question or give advice that’s basically common sense I don’t see the point other than entertainment value.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Ah, that makes sense. I look at it two ways: First, there really are people out there who think like that guy in the IT/emails/wife’s boyfriend post, so it’s useful to surface those issues and talk about them, even when they seem absurd. And second, yes, it’s entertaining! I would get bored writing this blog if there were never anything fun about it, and I look at writing it as a source of enjoyment for myself. That’s a large part of what this site has been from the very start for me, in fact, when I didn’t even know if I would have an audience other than myself. Quite happily, it turned out that other people were enjoying and being entertained by the same stuff that I enjoyed and was entertained by, which was a nice bonus that I actually didn’t see coming in the beginning. But really, this blog is a good reflection of my interests and amusements … not some calculated strategy for traffic.

              1. Anonymous*

                Sure it can be entertainment, but I see it that if people are legitimately having these crazies in their lives, then your blog is the place to help them. If you don’t listen and try to advise the best way possible, then who will?

        1. Anonymous*

          I applaud her for the post about the husband who wanted to involve IT in his personal life. But only because my friends and family spent quite a bit of time laughing about how absurd it all was!

    2. Anonymous*

      Actually, that’s more of the reaction I have when people do that on Facebook. Someone will put a status on their wall regarding a controversial topic, usually that day’s major headlines. They’ll take a side, whatever it might be, and then friends start commenting. The person might return later in the day, and see that he or she has 25+ comments on the status only to write in and say “I was just stating my opinion. I don’t have time for this.” Then some people write in and say, “What did you expect to happen when you write an opinion on a hot topic in a public place, even if ‘public’ in that sense means amongst friends?”

      But AAM isn’t like that. Sure she puts on a few quite interesting, quite creepy, quite disgusting, and quite WTF stories on here, but for 90% of the time, commenters have been respectful. To my knowledge, which AAM can chime in if I’m wrong, there has only been 1 time where she had to shut down the comments on a post because people were beyond snarky…they crossed a line.

      People are going to have strong opinions, but I am more flabbergasted when nasty OPs write in because they do not like the commenters’ answers – especially when they are being cordial! I think that top honor goes to the OP who has a self-wetting coworker.

      1. khilde*

        @anon 11:36 – Something you said in your post made me curious as to the topics that get the most nasty comments. I’d be willing to bet they are those types of topics that are very emotional/subjective in nature (like views on Merry Christmas in the workplace, having too many parties, education, etc.). And Alison does those (which are hugely entertaining so don’t stop!), but she also balances with quite a few “boring” topics that only those of us truly interested will stick around to comment on (i.e. writing a cover letter, specifics of a management situation, etc.).

        Does that make any sense? probably not. But I think this blog does a nice blend of entertaining & weird, and ordinary & relevant.

  11. Deirdre*

    Amen. I love your blog, love the commenters, and ignore the morons.

    I hope you don’t have to moderate but certainly understand if you do.

  12. Nichole*

    I’m a admitted advice junkie who loves the comments sections, and I’ve switched sites in the past to avoid nastiness among regular comments-watching all out feuds erupt and people piecing together enough of a regular commenters’ personal life to use it against them is most unpleasant (for example, I drew the line on one site where it became a running argument-like, every week- whether a gay man has any right to comment on women’s issues in relationships). I appreciate your committment to keeping that tone out of here.

  13. Erica B*

    Allison, you could always require email addresses and not allow anonymous posts.. Do you have the ability to ban posters?

    I don’t’ like jerkish people, and for people to think you’re being jerkish for posting this reminder to be respectful, is just jerkish. I hope it calms down! (and I love this blog too… especially because they’re aren’t normally nasty people who comment here!)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Actually, WordPress (the platform this blog runs on) does give you the ability to either ban particular commenters or to send their comments through moderation (while letting everyone else remain unmoderated). I think I’d try the latter before turning on moderation for everyone, since I hate moderation.

      1. Josh S.*

        You might also consider a different commenting platform (there are several compatible with WordPress) that allows comments to display (or be pushed down) based on the number of likes/further comments/etc.

        That way, the really interesting follow-on questions can migrate to the top of the comment list while the others get shifted to the bottom. And there is often the possibility that each user can re-order the posts based on oldest-first, newest-first, popularity, etc.

        Disqus is one of my favorites, and I believe there’s a fairly easy WordPress widget/add-on.

  14. Steve G*

    Thank you! I asked a question here 3 months ago and 1/2 of the comments were useful, pertinent, the other 1/2 asked what I had done wrong or had done to cause the situation. I didn’t understand why people would think posters to a blog would consistently be so self-delusional that they would ask for help with situations that were 100% within their control. If someone posts here, I am very sure they’ve first contemplated their role in what is happening.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t know which situation yours was, but I think there’s a difference between people’s being mean or inappropriate and people talking about something other than what is explicitly asked in the question. The thing is, a lot of situations people complain about *are* within their control; they’re just hoping for a way out of doing the thing that would control it.

  15. Anonymous*

    See, I go away for a week or two and something interesting happens. Now I have to read all the posts and comments! :)

  16. Ellie H*

    I really appreciate the commitment to avoid comment moderation if at all possible. This is probably the most “reasonable” blog I visit regularly. I comment on the AV Club and people get into some pretty vicious arguments over there – I think there is a place for that sometimes on the internet – but I definitely support this opposition to personal meanness and unnecessary harshness!

  17. Cruella*

    I never know how I come off sounding in my posts. At times someone will post something that makes my blood boil (like the “how ever shall I, genius and savior of the world, work for such a doofus with a less-than-superior degree” post) and I can be a little terse.

    Apologies if I am the offender.

    1. Lils*

      I think that post about the inferior degree got a lot of us really annoyed, and maybe that’s part of what started this week of nastiness. Thank you, Alison, for addressing this issue. This is just what you advise doing in real life: assertively addressing problems before they get out of hand. I so appreciate your advice (and the comments!)

      1. Keli*

        I agree, Lils. The “inferior degree” post got so many people upset, which led to some irregular-type replies, which could have led to a feeling of freedom to post nasty responses all week long. While both entertaining and educational, I remember thinking people were beginning to take the following posts rather personally at the time. Once in a while is tolerable, but I look for (and get) constructive advice here.

  18. Joey*

    So here’s my opinion on why it got ugly recently- First, its easier and more natural for people to judge instead of solve the problem. Absent your guidance on the matter I think a call for a reader solution feels like a free pass to say anything. Personally I value your blog for your opinion most, but it’s constructive to hear someone who thinks they have a better answer or solution as opposed to seeing “I agree” for the 20th time. To me those get in the way of the real discussion.

  19. Devilled Avocado*

    Let’s not confuse civility with everyone having to agree. Genuinely held dissenting opinions are perfectly legimate and even ‘stirring the pot’ has it’s place in generating healthy debate. Of course calling the OP a moron or worse should be out of bounds but I worry more when I see a commenter trying to put a different side to the argument get flamed for suggesting the OP might have been in someway responsible for the problem. Just saying.

  20. Scott Woode*

    I’m rather new to AaM’s site (only a couple of years) and I haven’t started posting until just recently (past month or two). When the nastiness started, I found myself a little frustrated. I’m just developing my voice and sometimes, as is true with most unspoken media, tone and inflection are hard to discern. I work fairly hard at crafting responses that are thoughtful, constructed, and always well-written (if a little prolix). I did not see that same quality in the commenters (I agree with Jamie; it’s a word) of ill-repute, or in some of the “regulars” exasperated responses to the troublemakers this past week. While I certainly reacted to what people were saying, I felt compelled to silence myself instead of speaking out, partly out of fear of being attacked, but mostly due to my belief that contributing to such delusional behavior doesn’t do anyone any good.

    I come to AaM, the commenters, and Alison (there is a difference between the two; I’m not being redundant) because I like the writing styles, the questions, responses, and most importantly what I learn from every post when I read it from letter to final comment. I’m new to the corporate world of “big business” and this site has proven itself invaluable to my growth. I pass it around the office and recommend it to coworkers and friends because it is worth the read (and sometimes, worth the catharsis/schadenfreude as well).

    I won’t stop my support of Alison and Ask a Manager, nor will I be angered should she change her moderation settings. I’ve become such a better professional because of her that it would be a shining example of “chopping my nose off to spite my face” if I stopped reading and disappeared.

    While it’s sad that this post had to be made, I’m glad that Alison stepped up to the plate and spoke out in protection of a community and profession that she so obviously loves. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything she says, I do agree with her and her actions here, today.

    Thank you for speaking out.

  21. Malissa*

    Alison, I love this blog. I also learn as much from the comments as I do from the original post. I’m with you that I don’t think moderation is the best answer. That would make you have to put even more work into this blog, then you might not be able to put out as many informative and some times very entertaining posts. Also when would you have the time to review resumes again (hint, hint) if you spent all of your time moderating?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I haven’t been publicizing this, but I’m actually still doing occasional resume reviews if someone happens to use the link at that old post about them; I haven’t made the payment link inactive for that reason :)

  22. Lindsay H.*

    Such a shame since I think the possibility of getting feedback from a wide range of people is so fantastic! People need to remember that if they aren’t willing to look someone in the eye and say something, they shouldn’t be so willing to click and post it behind a computer.

  23. Blue Dog*

    I think the conflict comes from hotly debated topics. Your core readership appears to be people in management and line employees who come at things completely differently.

    If an employee writes something silly (i.e., is it legal to put only regular sodas in the office machine and not diet), people in management are going to jump on him (particularly if they are having a weird day).

    Likewise, if an employer writes something that comes off as aloof or cold hearted (i.e., why don’t you have some responsibility and stop blaming your work for your life), their fellow employees will rally.

    Part of what makes this blog good is the back-and-forth from the divergent perspectives. But if someone is having a bad day at work, it is just a little too easy vent here. Unfortunate, but better than going home and using one’s spouse, kids or dog as a punching bag.

    Keep up the good work. This too will pass.

  24. juepucta*

    For all uncivil posters:

    It is a little known fact that Ms.G broke her foot while cage-fighting. Behave or she’ll go all Swayze-in-Roadhouse on your behind.


  25. LCL*

    There is great value to me in reading different people’s perspectives on these issues. This forum has taught me that things can always be worse. Thanks, Alison, for providing this fantastic resource.
    Now if only posters would quit starting posts with the word ‘This.’ Am I the only person made crazy by that opening?

    1. Laura*

      You are not. The whole “this” trend drives me over the edge. But if that is the only thing I have to complain about, it’s a sign of a great blog. :-)

    2. Anonymous*

      Yes. This. And may I add, +1. It is not that hard to formulate an original thought and write it out using a complete sentence.

      Unless, of course, you are a Foot. Then it is acceptable to abbreviate with a +1 or a “thisLittlePiggy” or something.

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