Seeing an increase in negative posts - how best to respond?

Frequent Contributor

Our network has steadily grown to just under 8,000 members.

With just over 2,000 less than a year ago its an achievement given no corporate promotion.


However, I am starting to see an increase in negative posts, particularly through the 'All Company' group.

This is worrying for a number of reasons, not limited to:

  • We will benefit most from a positive collaboration channel
  • Our Yammer tenancy is currently before the funding committee

Have any in this community publicly dealt with this sort of negativity?


If I was to weigh in and post in response what tips or even text (is there a standard response to this sort of thing) would you give for me to do that succesfully and keep my bosses happy?

10 Replies

It is very hard to respond without a good understanding of the comments. However, here is a way to categorise that might be of value:


- negative and based on a misunderstanding: engage, query the context and explain

- negative and valuable feedback: thank them for the feedback and connect the right people to solve. If unhelpfully negative engage privately to suggest a more constructive form of feedback

- negative and misaligned to organisation's goals: engage and explain the strategy and help connect it to their work

- negative and inconsistent with values or norms that you want for the network: engage and discuss the norms

- negative and misleading: engage, clarify and offer better alternatives


Over time these patterns will become norms and you won't have to respond to each negative post that's inappropriate. Community members, especially champions, can play a big role in encouraging more productive conversations.


Overall a Yammer network can't be effective as a happy place. Honesty and 2-way conversation is the great source of value and you need feedback to improve.  Negativity and resistance is a signal of work to be done. Always acknowledge their comments, seek first to understand and then build from there.


The biggest education is to remind managers that getting negative comments off a Yammer network doesn't solve the problem. It just means the issues fester and misleading ideas spread at the watercooler.

Also remember a few negatives stand out because we are not used to seeing these views discussed. Help executives keep the negatives in context of the wider positive story on collaboration.

Thanks Simon. Yes, I didn't give much context or info did I, sorry.

In mind was a number of posts from complaining about system outages, being unhappy (and responding in kind) when respondents didn't agree with ones posts, troll like behaviour, and so on.

Far from a one-size or reponse fits all.


I and others who see this particular light (ESN) have oft talked about community managers and the positive and necassry impact they will have on the network. The team most likely to understand and implement the community manager approach does not currently have responsibility for the platform.


It is and has for the most part been without much of the negativity, which I think is remarkable given it is largely ungoverned.

I agree that it is essential to have honest two or 20 way conversation, but make a distinction between honest feedback and negative posting (whingeing).

Once I have the necessary brief/permission I and our army of CMs will happily get in there and positively respond to such.

If it is trolling comments, escalation of arguments and overblown responses to outages, I would suggest starting work on the norms of behaviour in the network now. Connect these to organisational behavioural standards. Ask people to consider how the everyday norms of behaviour apply in Yammer. Also important is to stress people will be made accountable in the usual ways. Negative behaviour is rare in Yammer because it is usually clearly a work context and people are personally accountable for their actions. However, brevity, lack of tone of voice and lack of shared context can create the appearance of extra negativity.  Helping people to see the need to understand each other first, that escalation is unwise and providing questions to clarify the intent of comments can help.

I had a complaint made about our Yammer network made by someone on Facebook with over 3,000 friends. Here's what happened:

A great example of how to engage, build understanding and leverage the value of feedback. I like the point that positive stories came out because of the negative too.
Great story and outcome Larry. Thanks for sharing.
That is certainly an important point and one I hope to be able to inject into the C-suite conversation.

That's what I was coming here to say if it hadn't been said--as per your post:


"It was terrific because if this post was not made in this public way, I would have been unaware of the trouble these specific users were having."


We have also started to get a couple negative posts in our External Network, yet I am glad to see them because where's there's one person complaining, there are bound to be more, and now we can do something about it.


The trick is to be ready for all contingencies, and that's not always possible, and people get a little stressed or panicky and risk posting the exact wrong thing in response.

All superb insight, Simon, as always! :)