Disciplinary policy and why Staff doesn't talk about decisions

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    Brian Ragsdale

    Our policy about discussion of any decisions made that requires a disciplinary action is very clear. We won’t talk about, and only the staff involved and ownership area aware of the details of it. When the disciplinary action is talked about with the player involved, a third party is involved as a witness and unbiased person to help arbitrate any concerns that come up.

    Some of you may be unhappy with this policy. Why don’t have we have full disclosure? Why aren’t you entitled to know what happened and what the resolution was?

    That’s what I will be discussing here.

    We spent considerable time weight options on how to handle disciplinary actions. We bring to this our body of experience in dealing with these sorts of things, both on the receiving end, and as a party involved in deciding what is fair and appropriate to handle situations.

    I personally lean more towards openness in communication. I would rather have everyone know what’s going on, and my first inclination was to make any disciplinary actions public. On further reflection I saw the glaring flaws in this. Primarily, people are absolutely terrible at forgiving for something they perceive as a slight or a wrong, either against themselves or against ‘their’ community.

    Disclosing decisions made, amounts to public shaming. Leading the disciplined party to frequently have to ‘make amends’ to everyone in the community, on an individual basis, rather than just to any parties that have been wronged, or not given the chance to improve on behavior without significant social stigma attached to them.

    Public discourse also invites the strong predication that a group of people have for Mob Mentality, which does not lead to a fair or unbiased determination on how reparations should be made. Ultimately we strive to be as measured and as fair in handling situations as is possible.

    The down side to this, is of course that the ORG does not get the opportunity to disclose or discuss the reasoning and information that has gone into any given decision. A person who disagree’s with what action we ask them to take, may very well choose to disclose that to other people. Often providing an incomplete picture, or manipulating statements to try to cast themselves in a better light. This is pretty common human psychology, we all want to be ‘right’, we don’t want to feel bad about actions and choices we have made, or feel that our actions were completely justified. The truth of a situation is that we are often blind to any perspective but our own, we can’t see what harm we have caused others, or the extent of the consequences of actions we take.

    Historically you may note that public shaming, or public discipline is used, not to make reparations, but as a tool to ‘keep the populace in line’. Because of the social creatures we are, it’s a very effective tool. In our minds this is a draconian, heavy-handed and brutish way to handle situations. It doesn’t lead to a better community, it leads to a fearful community. It doesn’t lead to stronger better people, those who are able to admit fault when they have done so, or forgiveness when reparations have been made. It leads to a festering anger, a sense of being exiled, of needing to do everything in secret, least the overlords take you out for a public flogging.

    We want to build a healthy community, one that cares for and looks after all of it’s members. That allows for mistakes to be made and repaired. For a community that is resilient to the ups and downs that happen to all of us in it. This does not mean turning a blind eye to whatever happens, instead it means having compassion in dealing with situations and working with the parties involved to come to a better end, allowing each persons the opportunity to grown and become stronger themselves through it.

    While this isn’t a complete review of why we have the policy the way as it is, I believe this does provide the keynotes on how we made it.

    We welcome civil discourse on this subject, and would of course like to know your thoughts.

    Darby Bohde

    I for one would not have it any other way.

    I have seen the end result of both sides. People have a hard enough time taking correction as it is, if you publicly shame someone you will never get that person back, and will never see any growth. It completely rules out the possibility of a reunion. Where as if you deal with problems privately, there is healing and actual good can come of it.

    An employee of mine was called stupid in the middle of a conference call by an important client. The client didn’t know the employee was listening, but it didn’t stop the employee from being shamed. He walked out and never returned to work. I kept his job open for weeks longer than normal, but his shame kept him away.

    At the end of the day, if I make a misstep, I would want nothing more than to keep it between me and the org. I will never ask for anything else for anyone else. No matter what they may do to me or others.


    Most of the companies I have worked for have a similar policy. This seems like common sense for groups / organizations with more than like 10 people.

    Red Leader

    I appreciate this discourse and I believe you make good points. I agree that I am not in favor of public shaming and I’m not certain everyone needs to know everything when there is an upset of some kind. Let the parties involved and those with jurisdiction handle the situation with compassion and fairness.


    Looks like it’s been said before me.
    For a system to work it has to be fair to everyone. Publicly making punishment known has an adverse effect in any organization.


    I agree with this premise in principle, with two notable exceptions.

    One being if the nature of the infraction is public, the obfuscation of disciplinary actions taken implies impotents or apathy on the part of the ORG. A public problem requires a public solution.

    The second being if personal safety is violated, I believe the steps taken to improve safety should be shared with the victim(s) if not the community as a whole. It’s difficult to feel safe when a personal attack has little or no visible repercussions.

    Darby Bohde

    I think there is room for improvement there.

    Should a public concern happen, such as a major crime being committed, then yes the community deserves to know. These kinds of events would result in correction by the justice system and not the org. There are few if any actions that would require the entirety of the player base to be alerted to feel safe.

    As to the second, yes someone bringing a claim forward would be entitled to know if the issue had been investigated and action taken. I would not feel comfortable with anyone knowing more than that.

    As one additional note, you have to be super careful with what you consider a public problem. For most orgs I have been a part of, they only consist of major events that would result in law enforcement involvement. The one time I have seen it be less than that, it killed the org. Also, gossip and hearsay does not equal a public infraction, no matter what is being told.

    Dominic Gianatassio

    So here is my issue with the policy as it is now. I understand what it is supposed to do in concept, and it makes a lot of sense. But I have seen many of people whom I call friends hurt by the actions of other people yet nothing seems to ever be fixed as the same issues keep popping up time and time again. What this system does enable is sweeping problems under the rug rather than try and solve the issue even if that is not the intention.

    Brian Ragsdale

    To address the points that have been brought up:

    One could argue that all infractions are public. Frankly over my nearly two decades of being involved with LARP, most issues that resulted in some form of disciplinary action have been ‘public’, in that they had an effect on more than one person, directly or indirectly. How public an infraction is does not change any of my previous opinions, and in fact is specifically why I brought up several of the reasons for why we have the none-disclosure.

    We do take the nature of any incident in consideration when determine what an appropriate response is to address it. What we ask of people is frankly usually not going to be easy, as what we want to encourage is healthy resolution to incidents to build stronger people and better community.

    But addressing these things often takes time. Doubly because of our underlying philosophy of how to address grievances. It takes time for people to process through the emotions an incident can cause. Time to communicate with all parties involved, and to help them understand the scope of the situation. Time to personally make amends, and time for a person to make changes in behavior once they’ve been made aware of it.

    I acknowledge that this can look like issues are being “Swept under the rug”. And I don’t have a simple solution to that while respecting everyone involved and respecting the struggles that are often the underpinnings of things that come up.

    This process is new, it was created after we dealt with the bigger incidents that happened last year. We didn’t need a process of this nature until then, and we were neglectful in not having one prepared. We built this specifically to have accountability, both for staff and our ability to follow up with participants, and for the person receiving the disciplinary action to have a clear course of correction. While our system is not perfect, not that I think any system is perfect, it is a far cry better than what we had.

    The Corrective Action Plan(CAP) form that we have built, was done so to prevent the issues that we have seen over the last few years. That of people being talked to by staff, and then having the content and details of those conversations forgotten by both parties. This form is a big step in improving the Org’s and participants accountability.

    As we are focused on being as fair and unbiased as possible in our handling of these, that’s again why we have as impartial of a staff member present and aware of any CAP’s we delivery. That person can hold the org responsible if they feel that we aren’t following up with the person.

    By only having the minimum number of people involved, this still avoids the public shaming that would happen if information is released about the specifics of a CAP, while still providing better accountability.

    I do also want to point out that part of why we designed this process the way we did, is so that we can address issues before they turn into something larger. We understand that this is a new process and not everyone is familiar with it yet. But we hope to work with the community to identify issues in the much earlier stages, so that they can be properly addressed.

    Marshall Nystrom

    Here’s my two cents on this: I think having these kinds of issues be privately resolved under a general non-disclosure policy is a good thing for the health of the organization. It’s a large enough group that having a group discussion of any infraction is untenable, though that’s what I would naturally tend towards as it’s what I’m used to in my personal life. This policy protects the game and the group as a whole, and I think it’s positive.

    That having been said, as a new player to the group, I don’t have any knowledge of prior issues or persons involved, but it’s more than obvious that there are active issues. I don’t need to know the specifics, but I do need to know that they’re being resolved to keep a general anxiety about the group from growing. A public statement that issues have been brought up to those with the power to resolve them and that steps are being taken to address those issues, I think, would be a good policy to adopt. That’s my opinion, at least – I just really enjoy the game and the people involved and want to be reassured the organization is healthy.


    As someone who has been in the middle of the situation, I can say that yes, things are being handled in an appropriate fashion.

    Marshall Nystrom

    The conversation during openings assuaged my anxiety, and thank you for your continued reassurance and work. c:

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