As coworking space builders, makers, and instigators we’ve all dealt with difficult members at one time or another. GCUC is the perfect chance to learn how other industry leaders confront the difficulties of managing a coworking space, including the annoying guy who won’t stop talking about his cats when people are trying to work. What follows is an article written by emerging coworking thought leader, RyanChatterton, on dealing with difficult members.
Ryan believes in providing experience-based and operations-focused insights into the real world of coworking with minimal fluff. Ryan has worked with coworking spaces nationwide, including Impact Hub, to make spaces easier to manage, create awesome sales funnels that convert members, and develop educational and events programs that not only drive revenue, but inspire members to keep coming back. Contact him via [email protected] and check him out on LinkedIn. Ryan will be hanging out with us cool kids at GCUC USA this May in Los Angeles, CA.
This article was originally written as a two-part series on Coworking Insights, a platform dedicated to providing no-fluff insights into the real world of coworking. Part 2 is included in this post.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND DISCRIMINATION
Member = banned.
I have zero tolerance for actual sexual harassment, as should be expected of anybody responsible for a group of people, but it is important to investigate before taking action and act based on the severity of the situation.
Sit down with the offended party and the offending party separately. Ask them something like, “Hey NAME, I heard there was a situation where ISSUE happened. Can you tell me what happened from your perspective?” Corroborate this story with others who were present if there were any.
It is possible that the offended party misinterpreted something that was said or that a joke was just on the wrong side of the funny/offensive spectrum. I believe in gray areas, but the gray area is small here. I believe in second chances, but only in the gray areas. Again use your own strategic (and moral) compass here, but think hard about the message you’re sending with whatever action you take.
If the situation is deemed as clear and blatant sexual harassment or discrimination of any kind (race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, political, etc.), ban the offending member from the space.
For whatever reason, you’ve decided to remove a person from your community. Whether they are just too annoying, are offending other members with their jokes, or have committed an act of harassment toward somebody in your community, you’ve decided the best course of action is to part ways.
How do you do this?
If you’re finishing up a heated discussion with the offending party, keep your cool and tell them you’ll need to think about how to resolve this situation. Find out when they plan on leaving for the day (or tomorrow if it’s already the end of the day) and tell them you’ll follow up before they leave.
Revoke all membership privileges, access to message boards and email servers, and remove building access.
Craft your email.
Start with empathy, deliver the hard blow, and tell them what to expect next. I prefer to forgive any outstanding balances and even would go as far as to offer a prorated refund for the current month. Here’s an example:
Thank you for discussing this difficult situation with me. I really appreciate your [honesty, opinion on the matter, etc.]. You have been a valuable member of our community.
After much consideration on this matter, our team has concluded that the only course of action is to part ways. We feel that, because of this occurrence, your continued participation in the community would not reflect our values as a brand and community and would potentially cause a rift in the community itself.
As of this moment, your membership account and access card have been deactivated and all membership privileges previously afforded to you have been revoked. Even though our policy states otherwise, you will receive a prorated refund for the remaining days in this month.
In order to keep our community well informed about our policies and the actions we take to enforce them, we will be writing a short note about this policy infraction. This note will be posted on our website and sent to our members. The anonymity of both parties and the situation itself will be respected.
We can discuss the best way to gather your belongings at a pre-appointed time.
We regret that this situation has happened and wish you the best in your future endeavors. Please reach out with any questions. We’re here to make this transition as smooth as possible.
Write a blog post and send an email to your list about the the policy that was infringed upon and the course of action that will be taken to uphold it. Let members know that you enforce these policies strictly. State that you will always take actions to preserve the safety and dignity of your members. Here’s an example:
It’s with deep regret that we had to enforce our member policy this last week regarding GENERAL ISSUE.
Due to the infraction of a written member policy regarding this issue, we were required to terminate a membership and to write this message to all current and prospective members.
Please note: GENERAL ISSUE is not tolerated in any form for any reason and COWORKING SPACE will take necessary measures up to, and including, termination of a membership in order to uphold our policy regarding GENERAL ISSUE.
If you need any clarification on our policy or have questions regarding this policy, please reach out to us anytime.
Our primary objective is to maintain a safe, comfortable, productive and dignified work environment for all of our members.
COWORKING SPACE Team
DEALING WITH FALLOUT
Chances are there will be fallout from this. Negative social media, threats from the banned member (legal or otherwise), and even some members taking sides and leaving could result. Just reassure yourself that you’re doing the right thing by protecting your community members. Their trust is incredibly important and will fuel their loyalty to you.
By: Ryan Chatterton