Community Team Supporter Basics

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Addressing unwelcoming behavior

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One responsibility of a Community team member is to address discriminatory or unwelcoming behavior at community events.

We absolutely must address behavior that makes an event unwelcoming when it’s identified. We can’t control what people do, but we can control how we respond, and a non-response removes any benefit from having a code of conduct.

General Expectations

All WordPress event attendees and organizers are expected to follow the WordPress Community Code of Conduct. Event organizers are not expected to handle Code of Conduct issues on their own.

Reporting an Incident

To report a code of conduct-related issue, email Emails sent to this address will go to a private mailbox, visible only to members of the WordPress incident response team. A stand-alone Incident Reporting form is also available.

Responding to an Incident

Sometimes community members come into conflict, and need help finding resolution. When responding to unwelcoming comments or behavior, keep in mind that the issue is not the person; the issue is their comment or the action.

Here are some tips for handling unwelcoming behavior.

Respond quickly. Ignoring a complaint does not help resolve it, and can make our program less welcoming. If you are having trouble knowing how to respond to a complaint, or you find yourself just dreading even addressing it, ask for help from another supporter or supporters.

Discover the facts. Respond to complaints with sympathy or empathy, but focus on discovering facts. Ask open-ended questions to gather as much information as possible, and try to avoid forming an opinion. It is rare for the first report to include the whole story. If you ask questions that are too specific, you might miss some important details.

Investigate in pairs. Community conflict can be emotionally taxing, and we recommend that everyone work with a buddy when helping community members sort out a disagreement. Talking to another supporter about a conflict can help you keep focused and find the best solution possible; it’s also nice to have backup if you get stuck.

Encourage communication. Disagreements can arise because community members are not communicating directly with each other. Investigate the situation between the two disputing parties separately. If the investigation shows that a conversation will help, get everyone together to sort the issue out directly.

Important exception to this practice: if a community member has been the victim of harassing behavior, it’s not appropriate to ask that person to resolve the issue directly with the person who is accused of harassment.

A Few Important Notes

Do assume good intent. Most people come to our project because they share a goal: connecting WordPress users to help people do more with WordPress. Sometimes we disagree about methods, but usually we agree about the end goal, and reminding people that we’re all trying to get to the same place can help diffuse frustration and re-focus the discussion.

When possible, meet face-to-face. Meeting over video chat or in person is ideal because facial expressions and body language are an important part of communication. However, issues with internet connections or language proficiency — for example if one of the people in the dispute does not speak English very fluently but all the other people do — may require a text-based chat (in a Slack DM group for example). This helps to communicate clearly with all parties so that all the expectations are equally understood.

Take notes. Whether you’re discussing the issue on a video or voice call or in person, designate someone to be the note taker. That person will then send a copy of their notes to the person you were talking to. They can verify if your understanding is correct or clarify an item. In the end, you should have a version that you all agree on. Even rich communication like voice or video calls can lead to misunderstandings.

In the following quiz, we’ll look at some examples of some behavior that would make a community event unwelcoming to some members of the community. Describe what you would say and do, as a community organizer, in response to these situations.