I lead the tools organization for my company. Because I am a big fan of the Stack Overflow format, I decided to enable a similar feature in our company's Confluence pages called Confluence Questions. The concept is essentially the same as SO: anybody can write/answer questions, and can upvote/downvote.

I sent an announcement out to the company with details on how to use it, and encouraged everybody to write questions and share questions for anything related to the company (technology, administrative, benefits, etc.). The response was positive, and people started to immediately use it.

Unfortunately, things turned toxic very quickly. Every question now, people just attack the poster without actually answering the question. Here's an example:

Question: How do I get secured printing to work with our printers?

Comments on the question:

  • Needs more clarification. What types of documents are you printing?
  • Why are you printing secure documents?
  • I would have thought someone here for 4 years would have already figured this out by now.
  • It's 2022, you shouldn't be printing at all! shudders
  • Did you actually attempt to read the employee manual before posting this question?
  • Can we please delete this question so people aren't encouraged to be printing secure documents?

The question is currently standing at -9 votes, and there are no answers. In fact, the average question has -5 votes. Very few of them actually have answers. The few upvoted answers are generally snarky responses to the questions.

I am the administrator. What steps can I do to reduce the level of toxicity with this tool? How can I encourage this to be a platform where people can feel free to share their question without worrying they're going to get immediately downvoted and ridiculed by self righteous peers?

  • Does your company have an internal recognition program for employees? Apr 5, 2022 at 16:55
  • 7
    Did you establish any guidelines? Is anyone moderating the questions/answers? Also, are questions and answers anonymous? Your users may be used to forums that have a harsher tone than what you had in mind. The only reason Stack Exchange isn't degenerating into what you're describing is because experienced users educate newcomers and if something goes really wrong, moderators step in.
    – Llewellyn
    Apr 5, 2022 at 16:56
  • @MichaelMcFarlane, not yet. Someone else is taking care of that and it's publicly known it's coming soon. Apr 5, 2022 at 16:58
  • 3
    @CrystalizedJulia I think you have seriously underestimated the amount of work which is put in by large numbers of people to keep the question quality high on Stack Exchange sites. Large numbers of questions are downvoted (and hence hidden from the front page), closed and deleted - if you don't have people doing that, you won't get high quality questions. Of course, people don't like their questions being downvoted, but that's honestly less of an issue for a pseudo-anonymous Internet site than a work intranet. Apr 5, 2022 at 18:09
  • 5
    Honestly, if you work somewhere where those responses are considered acceptable ways to talk to a colleague, you have a mountain to climb...
    – AakashM
    Apr 6, 2022 at 8:25

3 Answers 3


Since you want this tool to work as Stack Overflow does, I'd like to have some suggestions:

  1. Your forum should clearly state simple guidelines such as : "Questions and answers should be helpful, and not about making fun of people or attacking people."

  2. You should be the moderator or some other people with lots of credibility should be voted to be the moderators of your company forum for this tool.

  3. The moderators should be able to delete unhelpful comments (and may be able to delete useless questions too).

  4. The moderators should monitor the forum frequently enough to ensure that it remains a high quality forum.

(Note: I've modified the answer as user "Hans-Martin Mosner" suggested.)

  • Does Confluence have a feature that allows users to vote in a moderator? I believe it does not. Apr 5, 2022 at 19:40
  • @Michael McFarlane, That is a good question. I know that this site, Workplace StackExchange, allows people to vote in the moderators. I hope that other sites would do the same. Apr 5, 2022 at 22:30
  • Make point 4 into point 1 and it's a perfect answer :-) Apr 6, 2022 at 11:58
  • @Hans-MartinMosner, Thanks for the good idea. I have just modified my answer as you suggested. Apr 6, 2022 at 17:33

I don't know if it's possible with the tool you are using to disable some features. But if that's the case why not tweak things a little? No need for the functionality of your system to exactly match that of StackOverflow.

Summarized, I would do the following:

  • disable the ability to comment. Requests for clarification should be send to the poster by mail or another private communication tool.

  • disable the ability to downvote.

  • delete all answers which are not actual answers to the question.

  • communicate that writing a non-answer answer will be seen as abuse of the system and will have consequences.

  • Disabling the ability to comment would prevent answering the question. Apr 6, 2022 at 16:05

I think if you take some time to warn people now, the problem will get better even after you stop. Doing so adjusts the decorum of the site. So far, you've let the snarks set the expectations. I stop short of advising you to fully moderate simply because that'd be a fulltime job. Thus:

For now:

  1. Your team use the @lastname, firstname function of Confluence to name people who are being snarky and admonish them: "@Jerk, Johnny, @Snark, Sue, that is not a helpful response." Since doing this directly warns them, they cannot ignore it by not returning to the question.

For the future:

  1. In future communication, clarify how to use this tool and behavior expected. It is too late now since you already sent out the introductory email, but remind people of the Confluence Questions in a month or so to boost usage, and in that email offer guidelines.

  2. In the future, encourage users to indicate an answer that helped them the most and award points in the recognition system.

  • Would someone explain the strict downvoting of this answer versus the strict upvoting of the other? They are similar in principle. I don't get it. Apr 5, 2022 at 19:41
  • 3
    Not my DV, but I dislike this answer. I don't think warning or calling people out will get the behavior to stop, especially if it is taking on a life of its own, which is the impression I got from the question. The other answer encourages moderation, which is more likely than warnings to correct this behavior. Apr 5, 2022 at 19:49
  • 1
    @MichaelMcFarlane, Believe or not, I also see that our 2 answers are similar in principle. I guess user "Fredric Shope" just pointed out something from a different angle. :-) Apr 5, 2022 at 22:34
  • Thanks. I've made a clarification. Apr 5, 2022 at 22:50
  • I think the big difference is that the other answers say you need to moderate and this answer says don't Apr 6, 2022 at 12:28

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