The last question spurred a specific debate which was mostly hidden in the comments and in chat room, but i want everyone's view on this.

The questions of the format "Is X a normal/acceptable workplace behavior/situation" are by default consider not-constructive?

It was strongly put that such questions are not constructive because of the format. In the specific context i was said

Is it fair for employer to [do X]? would be non-constructive.

I do not quite understand why. Also, the current data does not correlate well. Some example here are they :

Is it unprofessional to do other stuff at work?
- 1 close vote. 4 Upvotes 5 answers.

When is it appropriate to work during a meeting? (originally Should I be allowed to work during a meeting)
- 2 Close votes, 12 upvotes, 10 answers.

What benefits are there of being allowed to take your kids to work? (originally Take your kids to work?) - Closed. 7 upvotes, 7 answers.

Is it acceptable to use pirated software on the job?
- Closed. And protected. 21 upvotes. 11 answer

How can I politely decline a team lunch?
- Open 28 upvotes, 8 answers

How can I determine if it is unprofessional to play games during lunch hours?
- Open 14 upvotes, 8 answers

Is it appropriate to request a delayed start date at a new employer to help find/train your replacement?
- open 15 upvotes, 9 answers

Is it unprofessional to pursue personal relationships with site users?
- Open 8 upvotes, 4 answers. [Asked by Mod and top vote answer by another mod in reputed site.]

AND: a very fresh baby - just hit when i was drafting this so no stats yet.

Should I put blog links or public profiles like LinkedIn or StackOverflow in my resume?

Please note, apart from the format itself, there could be other issues with questions such as poor details or localized problem or general poor quality. The question being closed due to such reasons are fine. But if there is a well crafted useful question but just because it is based on this line/format, should they be regarded as non-constructive?

Should it be defined as to what the real norm should be? Why?

  • 3
    There is absolutely no relation between the number of upvotes / answers and whether the question should be closed or not (a lot of answers might be a hint that the question is poor, but just a hint). I up vote and vote to close quite oftenly, the question may be great and still not suitable for the site.
    – yannis
    Apr 25, 2012 at 6:31
  • That's fine. But anyway - i would appreciate that you answer the question. Apr 25, 2012 at 7:04
  • I'm writing my answer, give me a couple of minutes ;)
    – yannis
    Apr 25, 2012 at 7:06
  • 2
    for "Is it acceptable to decline a team lunch?" the actual question is "How can I politely decline without looking like a non-team player?" which makes it on topic. Apr 25, 2012 at 12:58
  • @Chad I edited that team lunch Q's title, I thought I already had. Title/body now match
    – Rarity
    Apr 25, 2012 at 13:10
  • @Rarity - Personally I am ok with the old title so long as the actual question being asked is constructive. Though the new title does solve the problem of "But he did it so its not fair for you not to let me" arguements. Apr 25, 2012 at 13:12
  • @Chad IMO "Can I" is rarely as useful a question as "how can I", plus the actual question was about how, so...
    – Rarity
    Apr 25, 2012 at 14:09

3 Answers 3


The not constructive close notification reads:

not constructive

This question is not a good fit to our Q&A format. We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise; this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion.

We cannot really say that the format “Is doing/behavior X considered acceptable/professional” is not constructive, some of the questions you listed are unsuitable, some are fine and the rest could go either way.

Personally I think the piracy question is at the bottom of the pit, quality wise, it's extremely vague and almost all answers are opinion based, only one answer provides references. It's a good example of exactly what questions we don't want on the Workplace. Aarthi's question on the other hand has enough information for a specific answer, without being too localized. We can't say that it won't attract bad answers, but it will be very easy to identify bad answers if they start appearing, because it gives us enough parameters to judge answers against. The piracy question is purely speculative and it generated a ton of questions, that's always a bad sign.

What is the main difference between them? The piracy question is not about an actual problem the OP is facing, it reads more like a curiosity question than a constructive question. Obviously I have no idea what the OP is facing in real life, but that's irrelevant, we can only go with what they decided to share in their question, trying to imagine what might be going on is not really something we should be doing.

I have absolutely no idea why people keep asking questions that are not about actual problems they are facing, it might be because they are trying to harvest reputation or because they honestly think that the question will be beneficial to others. It doesn't matter, the questions are unsuitable whatever the motivation.

Every time I bring up that questions should be practical, answerable and based on actual problems that you face, people are always quick to respond that their questions are absolutely practical and can happen to everyone. However practical is not the only requirement, questions should be on actual problems you are facing or faced in the past1, not something that you imagine might be a problem. Those questions are more fitting for a discussion forum, and The Workplace is anything but a discussion forum.

All that said, sometimes asking on a practical, actual problem that you face may not be enough, the question might simply be unanswerable, not every question can be answered by a bunch of random people on the internet.

As a rule of thumb on "Is X a normal/acceptable workplace behavior/situation" questions it would be preferable that we didn't have to ask questions like acceptable to whom, by which standards and on what specific industry.

But if there is a well crafted useful question but just because it is based on this line/format, should they be regarded as non-constructive?

Unfortunately the Stack Exchange format and the available tools can't handle everything. Some questions might be well crafted and useful and still not suitable for the site, that's just the way it is. It's true (in theory) that there is a (very) small possibility that we may miss a few great questions only because they don't work well with the format, but in practice we rarely seen that happen. You'll have to remember that the site is part of a family that includes 84 other sites, and every site had similar discussions early on, and at least on the mature sites the decision is always to not let the site become a discussion forum, even if we lose some great discussions in the process.

Lastly, as I already mentioned in a comment, the popularity of a question has nothing to do with whether it's suitable for the site or not. Shog9 put it beautifully in a comment to another Meta question, so I'll just steal it:

There's a reason these sites have two parallel voting systems, one for ranking and the other for moderation. Helps to separate the "bikeshed" voting from that intended to indicate suitability

People tend to flock and up vote trivial questions, no one knows why.

1 In which case, if you solved the problem it would be absolutely fine to provide an answer telling us how you solved it.

  • Lovely! I think this clarifies everything to me at least. Apr 25, 2012 at 7:47
  • This is definitely a case of "it depends on the specific question" - Most of the questions that got closed were Truly Bad Questions. The ones which were OK questions had devolved into ME-TOO! answer contests (with no mods to lock them closing-but-not-deleting is the most humane solution to stop the flood of worthless answers).
    – voretaq7
    Apr 25, 2012 at 7:50
  • 1
    @DipanMehta One thing I forgot: It's always a judgement call, and that's why it takes five highish rep users to agree that the question is unsuitable, there's no black and white here. And although people may think that moderators act on their own because you only see one name on the close notification, we do consult each other often before closing a question.
    – yannis
    Apr 25, 2012 at 7:52
  • @voretaq7 You love locking ;) but I don't think network wide locking is used as it is on SF, for a simple reason, it's a mod only thingy. Ideally the community should be protecting the questions using the available tools, and that's mostly vtc, and mods should only intervene when absolutely necessary. If vtc is good enough to protect a question from becoming a crapfest, no reason to drag the mods into it.
    – yannis
    Apr 25, 2012 at 7:55
  • @YannisRizos I'm a big advocate of other methods of protecting questions only because of the common fate of closed questions: as sites grow [closed] seems to evolve from "Everyone lay off until we fix it" into "This question is crap. Don't bother looking unless you're coming to throw delete votes on it" - they don't get fixed/reopened, and the closed questions on established sites are a monument to that.) VtC is the tool we have right now, so it's what we use. Long-term it just feels like driving a screw with a hammer to me.
    – voretaq7
    Apr 25, 2012 at 8:05
  • 1
    Having posted that long-winded explanation, I will say that if we as a site take care of our closed questions (fix the fixable, delete the junk so [closed] doesn't become a dirty place) I'm all for it being used to community-protect questions. Locking/protecting stuff to keep spammers and morons away with the frequency this site currently needs it would be incredibly annoying!
    – voretaq7
    Apr 25, 2012 at 8:11
  • 2
    @voretaq7 Programmers is not a good example, the scope change scarred the site forever. I'm not arguing against locking, what I really want is to solve the actual problem, community apathy on closed questions, and I don't see how changing the protection mechanism will solve that problem. As a compulsive editor I just think locking will ultimately prove counter intuitive, as you can't edit a locked post. We need to inspire a culture of improving, instead of looking for other tools (imho).
    – yannis
    Apr 25, 2012 at 8:13
  • @YannisRizos I agree that community apathy/being jaded about [closed] is the real problem. Programmers may not be the best example, but it's not unique: [closed] on the trilogy is a trainwreck, Apple is OK - mostly dups & shopping, AskUbuntu is a mess, English is pretty clean, and DIY is pretty icky (search glitch made 'em look good before)
    – voretaq7
    Apr 25, 2012 at 8:21

Is what someone else does acceptable?

This is not constructive. It is not constructive to criticize how coworkers act. This SE was proposed to help people navigate their workplace not as a way to criticize their coworkers.

On Topic: A person I work with is performing X Behavior. This is causing problems ABC for me. How can I approach someone to suggest they address X Behavior? *Is there a way I can accomplish ABC in a way that X does not affect me?*

Is this this workplace policy acceptable?

This is not constructive. The policy is in place and it is not constructive to talk about whether or not it should be. The only way this could be constructive is if it were asking if it was legal. Then the question would be off topic.

On Topic:
My workplace has X policy
This policy is causing problems ABC
How can I suggest that X policy needs to be modified?
Is there a way that I can do ABC and still adhere to X Policy

Is what I do acceptable?

This is not constructive. If the answer is yes then it is a one word answer which means it is not an acceptable question for this SE by definition. If the answer is now it is subject to piling on. And it usually depends what the policy at the workplace is. So while it may be acceptable in most workplaces it may be unacceptable in the OP's

On Topic:
I need/want to accomplish X goal
This I am having ABC Problems doing so
How can I accomplish goal X in a way that is generally acceptable?

We are thinking about implementing a policy of X. Any pros or cons?

This is not constructive. It is basically asking for anecdotes about your horror stories with the given policy. There are plenty of forums for this. That is not what SE is about.

On Topic:
My reports are doing X
This is causing problems ABC
Are there any common policies that address issue X?


I don't think questions phrased like that should be automatically closed as "not-constructive", but are instead a flag that they may need a second look from some editors

A question asking Is X a normal/acceptable workplace behavior/situation would actually be a good question if it asked Why/Why not?, and what factors affect the answer. Then rather than getting a yes/no answer, you would get a yes, and here's why, or no, and here's why not answer, along with a list of factors to take into consideration when making a decision, which I view as very constructive.

For all of those questions, I would like see a single question, with an answer explaining why/why not such behavior is acceptable, and what factors determine the answer.

The alternative is a lot of different questions, each with their own situation outlined in the question, which have answers that only pertain to the specific situation the OP is in.

I think it's far better to give people a single solid answer with all the information they need to make an informed decision of their own, than have a lot of different answers spread out around the site and each specific to a single user's problem. I view it as far more constructive and efficient to create one answer that "teaches a man to fish" instead of many answers which each give one man a fish.

I think the best course of action to such questions is to write a comprehensive answer which explains why/why not, and what factors affect the decision. Build up one good question on the subject, then any future questions that ask the same thing can be closed as duplicates, and point users to an excellent reference. Don't forget to edit the question as well if it's sub-par.

  • Build up one good question on the subject, then any future questions that ask the same thing can be closed as duplicates, and point users to an excellent reference. That would be a good idea if this was a reference site. It's not.
    – yannis
    Apr 25, 2012 at 13:10
  • @YannisRizos If the site is not supposed to be a reference site, then why do we try and make all questions be written in such a manner that they'd be useful to others seeking the same answer? We're not an encyclopedia, however we do advocate sharing existing knowledge instead of repeating ourselves
    – Rachel
    Apr 26, 2012 at 13:45

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