We've had a number of questions like these lately:

I realize these questions are all different in terms of the events involved, but they all feel rather localized (and in a few questions, they're just plain wrong).

Do we really want to accept these questions that are all more or less fishing for 'how do I do what I really want to do in a polite way' vs. asking for actual advice?


Do we really want to accept these questions that are all more or less fishing for 'how do I do what I really want to do in a polite way' vs. asking for actual advice?

I have been thinking about this a fair bit. The main thing I keep coming back to is that a lot of these questions are the StackOverflow equivalent of "give me teh codez." Someone has a situation (or problem) they want guidance on.

It's no different to come here and post something which amounts to the workplace equivalent of this - "here's a situation I'm in, halp me plz what do i do." Most of them have no fundamental question outside of "what should I do?"

Our FAQ contains:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

Questions with a basic question of, "what do I do?" don't meet this criteria almost always. There's normally never an actual problem - unless "I don't know what to do" is a problem.

The reason I am concerned with these types of questions is we can easily become an, "Ask The Workplace" site (like Dear Abby or all those columns) if we are not careful. Maybe this is ok. But if we choose to allow questions which have no fundamental question other than "help me please" this is precisely the type of Q/A site we will become.

See [here](http://meta.workplace.stackexchange.com/a/618/2322) for why this sort of post is not appropriate for The Workplace. Please read the [FAQ] to ensure you are asking an appropriate question, thanks!
  • +1: I share your concern, and that's why I think these questions are not a good fit for Workplace.SE.
    – Jim G.
    Jan 11 '13 at 21:07
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    While I don't want people to go on a witch hunt for every question asking "what should I do", it might be worth seeing if we can get people to say what they've tried, if it applies. Like the question about the loud coworker, for instance. I'd hope the asker had at least tried some stuff before asking. But for bigger decisions with a more lasting impact, I'm not sure this is practical.
    – jmort253
    Jan 12 '13 at 2:34

How should I handle this is not constructive. A question should have a problem and an objective clearly defined. And it should be closed as not constructive.

(The below is intentionally absurd and off topic)

My car is on fire and there is a suitcase full of money in the back seat. What should I do?

Grab some sticks and marshmellows... That is a perfectly valid answer to the question posed. But it should not be a valid answer to a question on The Workplace.

We could edit the question to:

My car is on fire and there is a suitcase full of money in the back seat. How do I put the fire out?

But we do not know if that is what the OP wants. Maybe the OP just wants to save the suitcase full of money. Maybe they want to know how to prove that the money was in the back seat for insurance, or maybe they want to know how they get to california when their car burned in Kansas. We can not know and until the OP clarifies we should not attempt to edit and get it reopened(if closed).

If a question gets edited asking for the wrong thing then the OP is not helped. Just editing a question to have another question open on the site should not be our goal. We should be trying to build a repository of questions and answers that help with real problems that people actually want solved.

We have dealt with this before and This was the response from the SE Beta overseers


I think questions that explain a common workplace situation, and ask us the best way to professionally handle that situation, are perfectly on-topic for this site.

To quote enderland in chat:

By definition of this site, we are going to get a lot of practical questions which are at core "here's a situation. what should I do?" or "I did this. was this a good idea?"

The key is to make sure the question can be applied to more than just you, and that it's written in such a way that it's open to any solution, and is not solely focused on just "getting your way".

For example, you can say "How can I politely get my coworker fired", however the answer you will most likely receive is that you're focusing on the wrong thing, and you should instead bring up concerns about your co-worker to your manager and let them handle the situation.

Providing the question is seeking advice for a workplace situation, isn't localized to just you, and is not just seeking a polite way to have your own way in the workplace while ignoring all the other great advice that users here offer, I'd say it's fine and should be judged the same way you would judge any other on-topic question (does it contain enough detail, is it clear what is being asked, is it overly broad, etc).

  • 1
    I disagree- I dont think this site should be miss manners. "I need to tell someone x. How do i do that professionally" is fine. "I do not like the situation as it stands, what should I do" is not. Jan 11 '13 at 19:25
  • @Chad I think those kinds of questions are perfectly on-topic and should be evaluated the same way you would any other on-topic question. For example, How can I convince my company to change their time off policy? and How can I build a convincing argument to have an open dress code?
    – Rachel
    Jan 11 '13 at 19:27
  • Those are good on topic questions. "I dont like my dress code what should i do?" and "I cant get the time off when i need it what should I do?" are not. We can help them with a path to their preferred solution, and even tell them if their solution is not the right choice, but we should not be choosing the solution for them. Jan 11 '13 at 19:55
  • @Chad Perhaps I wasn't being very clear with the words I was using in my answer. Can you review my edit and let me know what you think? I was trying to say that questions which essentially say "Here's my situation, how should I handle it" are not inherently off-topic for this site, and in fact many of our questions are likely to be along those lines due to the nature of this site's scope. You should judge these questions the same way you would any other question on the site, and not treat it any differently just because it essentially asks "How should I handle this situation".
    – Rachel
    Jan 11 '13 at 20:41
  • And I am saying I disagree with that. Jan 11 '13 at 20:47
  • @Chad Ok, fair enough :)
    – Rachel
    Jan 11 '13 at 20:49
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    @JimG. You may have misread his comment. I know I did the first time. "I need to tell someone x. How do I do that professionally" **is fine**. "I do not like the situation as it stands, what should I do" is not. We're a site about professionally navigating the workplace, so we are likely to get many questions asking how to politely phrase something, and it should not be taken as a flag that the question should be closed. Judge those questions the same way you would any other on-topic question
    – Rachel
    Jan 11 '13 at 21:17
  • @Rachel: Ah yes. I misread his comment too. :)
    – Jim G.
    Jan 11 '13 at 21:20

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