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In an answer to a related question I asked yesterday, a Stack Exchange community manager said:

Remember that when a moderator is hired as a Stack Exchange employee, they have to step down as a volunteer moderator.

I'm curious: why does this requirement exist? Why are moderators who get hired as Stack Exchange employees required to resign from their positions as volunteer moderators on all sites? Why aren't they permitted to moderate a Stack Exchange site during their spare time?

Of course, if their job title entitles them to hold staff moderator rights on one or more or all sites, they can continue to moderate sites they were previously moderating through their staff diamond, but not every employee gets these rights. Which means that moderators who are hired into positions which don't entitle them to these rights can't continue to moderate.

The above quoted answer also says that moderators must go through the reinstatement process in order to get their previous diamond back once they cease their employment, even if they continued to hold a diamond by virtue of being a staff member.

In any case, I'm curious to know why this rule exists.

Catija (the same CM above) commented that this requirement might exist because the moderator agreement contains a clause that the signer is "not an employee of Stack Exchange, Inc.", but that shouldn't be an issue since Tim Post commented elsewhere that even employees sign the moderator agreement, with their employment agreement taking precedence (and thus canceling out that clause).

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    Probably the answer should be included in this Team FAQ. – Rob Dec 20 '19 at 1:21
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    Maybe because it is hard to serve two masters at the same time. An elected moderator (hopefully) will put the interests of the community voting them into their position above other interests. Which can conflict with the interests of SE Inc... And even when there isn't necessarily a direct conflict of interest, alone the possibility of it could be problematic. Therefore such a policy would be one way to reduce potential conflicts. And ensure that employees get their priorities straight. – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Dec 20 '19 at 1:23
  • Also moderators are meant to be equal, but staff have more site power and in general more soft power to influence how sites are run. – curiousdannii Dec 20 '19 at 1:39
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    It seems to conflict with the mod agreement, which specifically states that they’re not employees. I don’t know enough of the actual explanation for this but I’m guessing it’s a combination of what @GhostCatsaysReinstateMonica says and legal stuff. That’s not to say it’s never happened... sometimes staff have a close connection to a site and may help out with moderation but I’m not certain whether they’re mods in the same sense as elected or appointed mods, meaning they show up on the site mods list. – Catija Dec 20 '19 at 1:41
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    @Catija Regarding said conflict: Tim Post said that "even employees need to sign the moderator agreement, their employment agreement takes precedence". – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Dec 20 '19 at 1:54
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Of course: I didn't make that rule, so only SE Inc. can tell us whether such thoughts went into that rule.

Why aren't they permitted to moderate a Stack Exchange site during their spare time?

There are some"common sense" reasons why the above could create problems:

That rule could actually help to protect such SE staffers. There is a potential conflict of interest, and some community members might assume "moderator X isn't working for us any more, he now moderates in the interest of SE Inc., not ours".(1) Btw: this is also works the other way round: can SE Inc. management be sure that a "staff volunteer moderator" is doing what they pay them for, or is sometimes putting the "election mandate" over company interests?!

And more theoretically, an employer might feel some "duty of care". Maybe SE Inc. really wants to avoid that staffers spend "most" of their life with the company. First during their normal day time job, but then later on, for hours and hours, moderating on the SE network. Your spare time is there to balance your working activities. I suffered from burnout once, and one of the key rules I learned is: have plenty of time where you don't do things that (in any way) relate to your work.

Edit: after reading how much private time and energy former employees such as shog9 invested in this place, I think we can safely discard this idea, and thus the above paragraph.

Beyond that, as mentioned above, and in my initial comment: undoubtable, there is potential for conflicts of interest. That moderator will always have to ask "what is best for my community", to balance that with "what is best for my employer". During most days of the year, this might be a non-issue. But in times of conflict, this can quickly turn into a source of enormous pressure on these staff moderators.

So: I would simply turn this around ask: what is wrong with preventing staff members from suspending such moderation efforts?! To me this looks like a reasonable policy. And note: having clear rules can make you less flexible, sure. But they also prevent a lot of waste, because expectations are made explicit, and everyone can know about it, avoiding to have the same discussions over and over.


(1) Go ask the MSE moderators how often they were accused of taking sides with SE Inc. lately. And they are appointed volunteer moderators, not even staff members of SE Inc.

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    While I understand the argument you're making, I don't believe that they are "taking sides with SE Inc.". In my opinion, they simply see Meta.SE as a community like any other Q&A community, and are trying to moderate it like one, while many others simply see this site as a tool and don't see or disagree with the community aspect of it. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Dec 20 '19 at 17:30
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    @SonictheReinstateMonica-hog I never made that claim myself. But I have seen it come up plenty of times. – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Dec 20 '19 at 18:11

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