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Officers' Quarters: Impending doom


Every Monday, Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook, available now from No Starch Press.

As the dawn of the Cataclysm era looms, new guilds have been springing up on every realm, hoping to tackle the expansion's challenges. Founding a guild is no easy task -- it requires dedication, patience, and hard work. How can you be sure it's all going to work out? Well, you never can. However, if you can identify signs of trouble early on, then you stand a much better chance of heading off some major problems later. This week's email is from a guild leader who's already sensing divisions in his fledgling community.

Scott,

I have been playing WoW for some time now. I had joined a guild last year and made several friends in it. However, we had several differences we felt over what we wanted and the direction the guild was going. So we parted ways with the guild, leaving behind many friends.

We started a new guild and are starting to recruit, establish guild rules and goals, etc. However, I am worried that differences among guild members and especially officers may become a problem. We have several very kind and patient officers and others who are less so. How does one manage the two groups (i.e., still get things done in a kind and patient manor and keep those with shorter fuses from turning off new members or current officers)?
This is my greatest fear. Myself and several others have invested a great deal of time, money, and energy in this guild and I wish for it to be a success as far as progression goes, but more importantly a place where we can have fun and friendship.

Random Guildmaster
If you are worried about these things already, Random Guildmaster, then you have a problem. You could be headed for what I call "The Big One," which is a massive, guild-destroying drama bomb that engulfs your entire membership, forcing them to choose sides.

The good news is that you're aware of the issue, so you may be able to prevent such a disaster. Many guild leaders would ignore the warning signs and hope for the best. You can solve this issue, but not without effort or honest communication.

First, get all of your officers on the same page as far as raiding, progression, expectations for attendance and performance, and everything else you plan to do. You said you're working on rules and goals, and that's extremely important. Once you've hammered those out, you can all feel a bit more comfortable with the guild's future.

Even so, what's equally important is to establish among the officers the manner in which you will go about enforcing those rules and achieving those goals. In a previous Officers' Quarters column about the right way to give constructive criticism, I talked about a guild's "criticism culture." It sounds to me as if this is where the conflict lies. You have some officers who are kind and patient, and others who are less so.

Establish a culture

Keep in mind, you can't regulate personality. People are going to be the way they are. However, you can regulate behavior. If you have officers who are flipping out at members with no provocation or who lose their minds any time someone makes a mistake in a raid, then people are going to quit. No one wants to put up with that in their guild, and you shouldn't allow it to happen.

When an officer's behavior isn't so blatantly over the line, on the other hand, it's less clear what the appropriate response is, if indeed any response from you is appropriate at all. That's why you need to establish a precedent now for what's acceptable and what's not. Then, even when your officers get angry at someone, they will know the expected way to engage that member.

Your officers may have varying opinions about what's acceptable. Don't wait for a flare-up to discuss it. Have an honest discussion among the officers as soon as possible about how you'd like officers to treat members and how you'll handle situations such as when a member isn't pulling his weight in a raid. You'll find common ground when it comes to maintaining a respectful attitude, but you may differ in the extent to which an officer should discipline and/or criticize members.

For example, some guilds monitor their members' raid performance constantly and make suggestions. That's a proactive criticism culture. Some players can handle -- and even welcome -- that scrutiny; some can't. Other guilds are more laid back. Again, some players want that type of relaxed criticism culture; for others, it drives them nuts to see someone who's underperforming without officer intervention. It all ties in to exactly what type of guild you'd like to lead -- and what type of criticism culture you'd like to establish.

The fallout

This discussion will truly test whether the officers of your guild belong in the same community. It may turn out that you have wildly different expectations. If that's the case, then it's better to find out now. Hopefully, a compromise can be reached. Having a mix of personalities among your officers is not a bad thing. The good cop/bad cop routine, as cliché as it is, still works wonders to keep your members in line and working as a team.

The other issue at stake here is the membership. What are their expectations about raiding and about criticism? Talk to your members about that. If you have members with very different expectations, then you could be in for a rough ride.

That's why you have to establish a clear guild identity (including a criticism culture) right now, so that people can't say six months down the road that "this guild isn't what I signed up for" or "the guild's attitude has changed." Depending on the identity you choose, you may lose some people, but it's better to lose them now then to sit around and wait for The Big One to explode.

/salute

Learn how to survive the leveling process, deal with guild perk freeloaders, and discuss the guild talent controversy or the guild reputation system. Send Scott your guild-related questions and suggestions at scott@wow.com; you may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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