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Officers' Quarters: Based on true events

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.

This week's Officers' Quarters is going to be a little bit different than the norm. Usually I choose an email and do my best to offer advice and guidance to solve a guild-related problem. In this case of the email below, I didn't think it was worth using for a column. There are many emails that I respond to privately that I don't plan to feature on the site, usually either because they deal with a topic similar to one I've covered in the past or because the answer is relatively straightforward.

Then, about a week ago, I received a followup message from the player that made this situation worth a second look. Below, I'll post the email, my response, and the player's inspiring followup.

Cata has hit and with it, we saw a few server transfers. Our guild ranks have been bursting with new and returning players. As a tank, I've been doing a lot of work to run heroics and rotate players with me so that they can benefit from guild groups but I've noticed most of the other officers are staying in their officer-cliques. I've tried socializing with them and they've become more friendly in the last few months, but I still don't feel comfortable with them, mostly.

A lot of time they will [. . .] go back and forth with banter about incest, rape, genital mutilation, bestiality and other shock-value crap. These people are all my age (25-35) and while separately they can be pleasant, together they are gross and after months of hearing it I decided to ask them to cool the talk in public areas.

I did this in a post to our officer chat that read:

"Would it be possible for people to keep rape/anal sex/molestation/etc. talk isolated to a private channel or group appropriate chat? I think that the guild is really evolving, with new members from other servers, and if we're going to stay competitive with other guilds we're going to need to retain members. I know a lot of new members have been put off or confused by the sex-talk and it really doesn't need to happen in g-chat. I understand that this is the sort of banter that you guys seem to enjoy and I don't want to come off as a big mean stick in the mud, but perhaps is could be isolated to o-chat (most of the players that use this talk are officers anyway) or a private channel."

I thought it was concise and clear but was immediately met with pure aggression. Now there are four pages on this thread that has ultimately boiled down to "No, I don't want to," but in a much more long winded and flamey sort of way. In short, I've been told that:

1. The guild doesn't cater to children.
2. If people have a problem they can talk to those responsible directly.
3. If people don't like it they can leave.
4. I have to censor myself in everyday life, I'm not going to do it in game.
5. There is no proof, therefore it isn't a problem.
6. Tell us who complained and what they said and we'll deal with it (I read this [as] a /gkick)

In all my responses, they've used typical forum flame tactics to antagonize the situation -- most significantly, ignoring solid facts and altering existing information to skew my statements -- and today I was taunted and patronized in g-chat after logging in by a level one alt who most certainly was part of the forum conversation (directly or by talking with a friend). The alt logged off before I could say anything to him, but I'm thinking that even acknowledging the behavior will only make it worse.

The "If people have a problem they can talk to those responsible directly," argument bothers me because when I directly and concisely addressed them in a very personal way it was ignored and then used a fodder for the fire against me. If I, as an officer who has known them for a while, can't talk to them personally about their behavior without it being used against me, then what chance does a new recruit have?

The guild leader has become absent through the whole thing and admitted he "hates drama." I get the impression that drama is now an umbrella term that encompasses everything that is not lolcat pictures and failblog videos.

[. . .] At this point I've pretty much resigned to letting it die, but every day that I don't respond, I get harassing messages or passive aggressive comments in g-chat when I log on.

[. . .] I've, reluctantly, disabled officer chat for the time being and resigned to just doing instances and raids with other guildies and friends. I don't want to leave the guild because I have a fair amount of friends here and it would only serve to hurt us and them to lose a main tank and healer -- and perhaps any of our close friends that have said they would leave if we did. So far I've put the main four instigators on ignore but I feel like it's only counter productive to guild progression. [. . .]

Stressed


My reply

Needless to say, I was rather horrified when I read Stressed's message. I can't imagine putting up with such behavior. I decided not to feature her email in a column because, to me at least, the answer was so clear. Here's what I wrote back to her.
Hi, Stressed.

In short, your officers are acting like spoiled children. Taunting you on an alt is something a 12-year-old would do. I wouldn't expect that from someone in their 20s or 30s. It's utterly atrocious what's happening in your guild right now.

Since the issue involves a dispute among officers, your guild leader is the only one who can resolve the situation. Instead of that, he's washing his hands of it, so that leaves you with only two options: deal with it yourself, or leave.

My advice would be to quit this guild. If the guild leader won't support you in a reasonable request or rein in the players who are acting like idiots, why stay? All he'd have to do is tell them to tone it down in gchat and leave you alone. If the officers can't show you respect, and in fact go out of their way to insult and provoke you, why stay? Their arguments make no sense and I get the feeling that they are never going to back down, so what's the point in fighting it? You aren't the one causing the drama here. You should never have to put any guildmate, much less a fellow officer, on ignore.

When you are actively being harassed by officers and the guild leader won't put a stop to it, you have every right to walk away. Your friends may choose to stay, and that is unfortunate, but I don't see a happy future for you (or anyone) in this guild.

Good luck and /salute,

Scott

The followup

After that, I didn't expect to hear back from Stressed. Usually, I never know what happens after I've given someone advice. In this case, however, I received an intriguing followup:

Since it's been about a month since our previous correspondence, I wanted to update you on this briefly.

Because of this thread our guild leader quit. The old guild leader came back from some sort of hiatus to take over the leadership and accidentally gave me access to their "inner council" forum board. In it was a lot of terrible attitudes and childish stupidness. I'm not sure how many posts contained the words "feminazi bitch" but it was far too many. I told him that I was sorry and there were a few nice people in the guild, but that I would have to leave. [. . .]

He did not want us to leave and after a long discussion I said that I would give the guild two weeks. In that time a lot changed, mostly the guild ranking system and the way that players are recognized. The "officers" (read: friends of the guild leaders that didn't actually do anything and used officer chat as a tool to gossip to each other and talk behind the backs of non-officer guildies) made a stink about their authority in the guild and started pushing people around and bullying anyone that didn't agree with them.

This resulted in the new guild leader demoting everyone that was being a dick. Within the week, trouble players made these long "it's been fun but I'm tired of playing WoW, off to Rift, see you when WoW doesn't suck!" posts and haven't been heard from much since. Amazingly, the guild had become a nice place to be and we have three ten-man-raids running right now.

Everything worked out for the better in the end, but it sure was a headache. I'm still a little gun shy with the guild, but so long as it stays on this path I'll stay in. The hard part about being on a dead server is that your options are a lot more limited and I have a ten man raid team that is pretty consistant now, so I don't want to lose it on a gamble.

Anyway, thanks for listening and your past advise.

I found this story very inspiring. In such a hopeless situation, one of the worst cases of pointless and mean-spirited drama that I've ever heard about, the strong intervention of new leadership was able to clean up a horrendous officer corps, resolve the prevailing issue, and allow the guild to remain successful. It's unfortunate that a member had to threaten to quit before the problem was addressed, but sometimes it's not obvious to a guild leader just how bad a situation has gotten until someone speaks up.

It's a lesson that I've certainly taken to heart, and I wanted to share it for that reason. No matter how bad things get, you can find solutions. Those solutions may be harsh, but sometimes they are quite necessary. Protecting your guild is more important than protecting people's egos -- especially when those people are acting like total jackasses.

I hope things continue to improve for you, Stressed. Thank you for sharing this with me!

/salute

Join us to 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@wowinsider.com; you may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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