May. 28th, 2014

karlht: (Default)
TL;DR: "We used to do it differently" is a different statement than "You kids these days don't know what you're doing." Under live convention conditions, the first can lead to instructive conversation; the second is a violation of Wheaton's Law that needs no refutation beyond an invitation to the door.

When I help to prepare the staff of my regional convention the week before load-in, I tell them two things: One is "Everyone on the staff is going to be a little crunchy this week, so please cut each other some extra slack." The other is, "Please don't swear at the attendees; we're here to show them a good time, and it's hard to do that if you're grouchy and upset -- if you need a break, tell your department head and take one."

As of this year, I am making one addition to those notes: "No attendee has the right to belittle you or tell you what a terrible job you're doing, or how they could do so much better at your job than you are doing. If they have constructive criticism, they will be sensible and give feedback to your department and division heads, or they will show up at the closing session and air it there. But if they are berating you, particularly, that is not ok. That is not constructive criticism, that is abuse. If your department head is in the room, ask for help. If not, ask another staffer to call security. Do not engage the attendee, do not try to argue with them. Simply have security remove them from your presence. If anyone asks you why you have done so, please feel free to say, 'Violation of Wheaton's Law; Karl said I could.' If you observe this happening as a department head, do not hesitate to call security. Don't worry about refunds, 'this person is a big name,' or any of that. The right to be at our convention does not include the right to abuse our staff."

The fact that I have to add this to my pre-con preparation makes me angrier than I have been in a very long time. I am trying to teach a new generation of fans that staffing conventions is a rewarding thing for them to be doing; exhausting, yes, frequently under-appreciated and strenuous, but community-building, enjoyable, and with moments of real bliss. And one attendee walking into my room and berating my staff turns what has been, for most of us here, a transformative and much-treasured experience into yet another instance of "Why would I want to be here? This is just as bad as retail work, and I'm not even getting paid. At least in solitary fandom I don't have to deal with people telling me to my face how useless I am."

This is completely unacceptable behaviour. Don't put up with it at your own conventions. And if you do it at someone else's convention, expect security to escort you to the door and ask you not to come back.

[The first person to tell me any variant of "Your staff needs to grow a thicker skin" is going to get "Hi, welcome to being part of the problem," as a response. The details of the experience in question here are not subject to audit; I was there, you were not. Yes, I'm angry about it; wouldn't you be?]

[I am posting this to the mailing list because I think a useful wider conversation can be had there without any need for moderator involvement from me; the discussion on my Dreamwidth page will be moderated more heavily, and is likely to cover topics of more interest to my immediate local community rather than to the list in general.]

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