This is a work in progress. Now that the FAQ has be changed as per this post, I think we need a guide on "how to ask a question / write an answer" section here.

Also, I'm not sure how to best do a work in progress on these sites...

I plan on reducing content from here to make it less TL;DR as well.

New User Guide


Hello and welcome to The Workplace!

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You may have noticed this is not a normal online community. It is different from most online mailing lists, forums, and discussion boards, as well as even other sites on the Stack Exchange network.

Sometimes, this can make the site seem hostile to new users. This site is focused on high quality questions and answers, and as a result, sometimes your content may be downvoted or even closed. These standards can be frustrating at first, but are required to consistently provide high quality content.

Table of Contents

  • 1
    +1 - The FAQ can definitely be changed, but as you can probably see from this post, this is a lot of information to pack into an already-verbose FAQ; more isn't always better. My suggestion is to picture this as a completely separate document -- a companion to the FAQ -- that focuses purely on question-asking tips for new users. Ideally, the tips should focus on the goal of preventing closure or reopening a closed post. In short, I'd suggest keeping out any introductory language and focus on just the tips. The more concise we are, the easier it will be to read.
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 18:54
  • 1
    I also made this post community wiki, so anyone, even those without full editing privileges, can participate.
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 19:14
  • I think that according to this chat comment from enderland, we may be better off creating a separate 'reference' community wiki just to point typical bad answers to. One answer for "Agony Aunt" questions, one answer for "Which job should I take?" questions, etc. The question itself should just be, "We want you to participate, but to maintain the quality of the site there are certain questions we will close/downvote on sight" and give explicit reasons.
    – jmac
    Commented Apr 23, 2013 at 1:12
  • 1
    @jmac - I agree 100%. For this tool to be successful, the material must be concise. The more tailored the information is to the specific situation, the better chance the poster will take the information as helpful and useful. Additionally, I don't think linking to the doc alone will help by itself, we need to Think Bold.
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 23, 2013 at 1:56
  • So then perhaps it should be a two-pronged approach. A set of aggressive edits coupled with a community wiki entry that we can link to in the comments explaining the policy and what sorts of posts we aggressively edit (the above agony aunt questions, etc.)?
    – jmac
    Commented Apr 23, 2013 at 2:00
  • 1
    @jmac - That's sort of what I had in mind. I feel like editing can be a way of showing someone how to get from point A to point B, sort of like teaching someone to fish instead of just giving them a fish. Now, while our edits might not be perfect, I'm hoping that maybe such an experiment might lead to more askers having "aha!" moments, and consequently making some final edits of their own that lead to the results we're looking for.
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 23, 2013 at 2:05
  • 2
    Also, I'm not sure policy is the right word. I feel like "guidelines" or "tips" would be much better. Sure, you and I can think it's a policy, one developed by the community, but using a bit of psychology in our approach to enforcing that policy through patience, guidance, and teaching might lead to better results.
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 23, 2013 at 2:07
  • 3
    Is there any way we can get a nice warning along the lines of, "The Workplace is open to anyone -- before posting, assume your boss or coworkers may read what you wrote." That may prevent some of the rants and complaints?
    – jmac
    Commented Apr 23, 2013 at 2:55
  • @jmac im in favour of that, a gentle reminder that what they say might not be as anonymous as they think might help curb some of these
    – user5305
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 10:12
  • That uncredited image appears to be a commercial stock-photo, used without fair-use. If you have paid for its use, that should be mentioned. Otherwise, the image should be removed as it violates copyright. Commented Apr 30, 2013 at 19:41

2 Answers 2


How to ask a high quality question

It's possible you are reading this because you had something you wanted answered about the workplace and came here - only to find it downvoted or even closed. If this is you (or you want to ensure your future questions are good) then this section is for you.

Generally speaking, questions which are successful here will have both of the following attributes:

  • A specific question which can actually be answered
  • Useful to users other than yourself

Let's talk about the types of questions which are not good for this format. The FAQ describes some but here are some more detailed explanations.

  • Asking for advice.

Generally, if your question can be easily rephrased "help me make a decision" or "give me guidance" it will be closed. We have seen a large variety of these, but some of the most popular are: - What job should I take? - What should I do? - Should I do XXXXX I don't know? - I did/didn't do XXXX, was this a good idea?

The reason these questions are closed is that overwhelmingly these questions are more suited to discussions than a question/answer. No one can answer what is right for you.

This community is not a Workplace equivalent of Dear Abby - most of these questions cannot be answered as they are soliciting opinions on what should, or should not, be done.

Instead, consider focusing on the answerable components for your question. For example, you could ask: - What are key differences between a large company and a small company to consider when evaluating a job offer? - How can I prevent a coworker from continuing to steal my office supplies? - What are the factors I should consider before doing XXXXX?

These questions are more focused than the first list and, more importantly, they have a specific question.

  • Complaining/ranting.

We know, your coworkers are awful and make your life miserable. Unfortunately, letting off steam normally results in a rant rather than a good question. Focus on the specific problem and leave the emotional and personal details aside.

Return to Contents

  • I'm trying to think of a question here that couldn't be rephrased as "What should I do?"
    – pdr
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 14:01
  • Also, I question your "good" examples there. What are key differences between a large company and a small company to consider when evaluating a job offer? - Argumentative and polling. How can I prevent a coworker from continuing to steal my office supplies? - What should I do? What are the factors I should consider before doing XXXXX? - Polling and not a problem that needs solving.
    – pdr
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 14:05
  • @pdr - Feel free to bring in different examples if you have better ones. I think the person who posted this was just trying to get us started, and he mentioned in chat earlier that he welcomes edits, so go for it. :) Hope this helps!
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 19:26
  • 1
    The problem is that I really don't know what we're going for, right now. I keep hearing that we're not an advice column, but 90% of our good questions are "how do I deal with ..." which is, by definition, asking for advice. The bad ones tend to be "I'm going to do this and I'm looking for absolution / what I've forgotten."
    – pdr
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 21:01
  • @pdr - I hear you. But I think I'm starting to see that it really just comes down to how those posts are worded. "What should I do" can be turned into something more direct and to the point. The challenge we're learning to overcome is how to tell the difference between questions that just need to be reworded for clarity and questions that just aren't a good fit. I'm hoping the New User Guide can be a tool for improving the questions that could be a good fit, with some editing. In other words, I'd like to save those questions you're referring to.
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 21:35
  • In short, many advice questions have potential to be good Q&A, but they need to be more direct, concise, less ranty, more focused on a goal. Editing for grammar and formatting is a good first step towards telling the difference. Hope this helps!
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 21:36

How to write a high quality answer

Any high quality answer at a minimum:

  • Responds to a High Quality Question

The best answer for a rant, discussion, or other low quality question is an edit, a downvote, or a close vote.

  • Answers the underlying Question

If the user's question is, "How can I prepare for getting hit by a bus?" don't spend time explaining how to avoid buses.

  • Does Not Contain Questions or Conditionals

If your answer contains phrases like, "Depending on the industry..." or "Do you use X? if yes..." then use a comment to clarify the question before answering.

If you want to improve your answers further, here are some good guidelines:

  • Proofread Your Answer

Before hitting "Post Your Answer" read through your answer to make sure it answers the question and contains no errors.

  • Format Your Answer

Form matters, and an answer that uses formatting to make your point clearer will be better received. Check the editing help for details on formatting.

  • Provides Timeless Information

Think about potential questions someone would have if they read what you wrote in 10 years. Industry-specific jargon, and currently trendy technologies may not last. Explaining the concept will get the message across and keep your answer relevant in the future.

Return to Contents

  • One suggestion I have is to focus only on the do's and on the positives. For instance, the section, "Answers the underlying Question", could be reworded to focus on what to do instead of on what not to do. We might consider removing the subsection, "Responds to a High Quality Question" altogether; it gives this sort of a negative vibe.
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 23, 2013 at 2:02

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