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Officers' Quarters: Drawing the line

Every Monday Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership.

We often talk about our guilds as if they are families. A family would do anything for each other, wouldn't they? The writer of this week's e-mail asks, When it comes to helping your guildmates with real-life problems, where do you draw the line?

I've been reading your Officers' Quarters column, and I would like your input. I am a longtime (2 years plus) member of an Alliance guild and also a senior officer in a similar-sized Horde guild. In the Alliance guild, one of the members is a teenager who has also been in the guild for a long time. This guildie, along with his father, are well-known in the guild, but the teen is more known for his offensive and insulting behavior in guild chat and in raids. Several members of the guild have left specifically because of this kid. It's also known that he is on medication for behavioral problems. Despite his unpleasant behaviour, he has not been removed from the guild, which has caused a lot of friction.

In the Horde guild, there is a similar situation. One of our younger members is known to be having problems with his family, and in-game, he has been showing problems with anger management. This weekend, he crossed the line by being insulting and using unacceptable language. He was warned twice, and then quit the guild. Later, he apologized to one of the officers and wanted to rejoin the guild. I recommended against his reinstatement, and one of the officers (who previously mentored this kid) thought we should've given him a second chance. The whole incident left a bad feeling with me, because I see that this kid had problems at home, and enjoyed the social aspect of the guild. However, my experience in the Alliance guild showed me that retaining these types of members can seriously affect the guild.

Should guilds be responsible for looking after the real life emotional needs of its members? I know for some guildies, the guild fulfills a huge part of their daily interaction, and for some of those with personal problems or medical conditions, this is even more so. My question is this: where do guilds draw the line between being a 'family', and being a group of friends with a like-interest in WoW?

Cheers,
-- Uncaringbear

Allow me to begin with my own story about a similar situation. A long time ago, we had a member of the guild who stopped playing for a long time, and then returned one day. It's possible that he sold the account to someone else, because he acted somewhat differently from the way I remembered him. Our guild was massive back then, and it wasn't someone I knew very well. But I remembered that he had been a quiet player who went about his business, occasionally asking for advice or crafting help. When he came back, he spent most of his time online fishing for attention in an awkward way.

He would, without any prompting whatsoever, type out in /g something like this: "I wish I had a girlfriend." Or, worse, "Can somebody tell me how to stop feeling lonely?" The /g channel would go dead quiet. No one really knew what to say, and it wasn't a topic that you'd want to discuss in a public forum, anyway. If he was genuine, and not simply stirring up weirdness, he was obviously suffering from depression.

Several of our officers tried to help him. They'd have private conversations with him, trying to cheer him up and to figure out what was going on in his life. He'd give noncommittal answers that made them keep asking questions, doing his best to draw out the conversation. But nothing they said seemed to help him, and they couldn't get him to stop making the awkward comments in /g.

A few weeks went by, and he had become notorious in the guild. A lot of people felt sorry for him. Many were just sick of him and wanted me to kick him out of the guild. I refused to do it, fearing that we were his only social outlet and removing him from the community would make his situation even worse. Besides, he hadn't done anything against the rules. He just made people uncomfortable.

Eventually, he went off the deep end, and started making wild accusations about one of the officers being a racist. He wouldn't stop after repeated warnings and requests to calm down. He gave us no choice: We had to kick him. I haven't heard from him since, but I hope that whatever he's doing now, he's feeling better.

I learned a lesson, though: There's only so much you can do for someone in your guild. I like to think of my guild as a family, but the hard reality is, some people need way more help than a person can give in this context. Some people might need a parent's intervention, or professional counseling, or even medication. You can try to support them, but ultimately their problems are much more serious than you can fix.

That doesn't mean you should shun them, but it doesn't mean you should let them treat other people in the guild with disrespect, either. So there is a line, and you should make it clear to the person where that line is. Some people will intentionally test those limits, and some will cross the line to see what you do about it. If they're acting this way, you have to stick to your guns and do what you said you'd do. Some of those people will never come back. Some will realize you're serious and change their tune.

It sounds like the kid in Uncaringbear's Horde guild is the latter. In general, when the person apologizes like that, I'd recommend giving them a second chance. When they see that you mean what you say, they may -- emphasis on may -- stop testing you and behave. It's a risk of course. Your members might not share your patience with the situation. I'd also say that, in such a case, a second chance is all they should get.

Fortunately, these cases are the rare extreme. A guild can act as a family and help people through plenty of problems, even very serious ones. When my father passed away suddenly two years ago, my guildmates were incredibly supportive and really helped me through that difficult time, just by being there for me. We've supported people through everything from becoming a new parent to having their house destroyed. It's one of the best parts of being in a close-knit guild, so take advantage of it when you can!

/salute

Send Scott your guild-related questions, conundrums, ideas, and suggestions at scott.andrews@weblogsinc.com. You may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!

Filed under: Guilds, Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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