Air cover for the community

7 step guide to dealing with ‘risky’ conversations ….

1. Have your community guidelines in place. These may be for the whole organisation or a particular set for an explicit community. These are supported by the general social media and overall HR guidelines within the organisation. Managers were asked to refer their members to these guidelines on various occasions when things got ‘tasty.’

2. Send a private message to the individuals or group who may be causing trouble, reminding them of the guidelines.

3. Follow up with another private message if it persists. Also contact advocates of the community and ask them to step in both privately and within the conversation thread.

4. Post a general announcement to the community reminding them of the guidelines

5. Step in as the ‘steward’, point them out in front of the community and explain to the whole community what is wrong. Keep conversation respectful and avoid emotion or being pulled into the conversation

6. Suspend them from the community for a certain period (through a private message)

7. Ban them – there may be some initial noise but make the community aware of what is happening. Transparency is always good.

It’s important to get manager level folk and internal communications onboard with the guidelines and have plenty of process and governance when HR / Risk come knocking asking for conversations to be closed down.

One of my proudest moments around these guidelines (sad I know that I can feel proud around guidelines) was a conversation which ‘suggested’ special treatment for certain people in getting flight upgrades. It also dug up some legacy industrial relations battles between pilots and cabin crew. We were pressured by many in HR to ‘close’ the conversation but we knew that if we did, the whole message around changing to a more collaborative culture would be lost as people would see the same old tactics of the company deleting any items that it didn’t like.

There were comments on the thread asking why the conversation wasn’t being deleted and many on the conversation (now involving hundreds) were waiting for just such an event.

In the past the company stepped in as a ‘parent’ and deleted items before the various groups within the community learnt to deal with the situation themselves. In essence they didn’t have to grow up. But we told various Risk and HR managers that when the participants realised no-one as going to step-in (unless they breached a guideline or company policy) they would need to resolve the matter themselves and progress far quicker than any coaching or manual could teach them. We had reached ‘step 5’ of the guide and with the help of advocates on both sides the conversation started to turn and developed into a beautiful knowing sharing piece around the process of flight upgrades and weight / balance of aircraft etc.

Through later fact finding with internal communications and manager level folk the ‘flight deck friends’ conversation promoted the realisation among many managers that steering and nurturing the conversation and its participants is far better than hitting the ‘delete’ button and losing the audiences desire to share and engage.


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