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Officers' Quarters: Raid leading is stressful

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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.

The title of this post goes without saying, but let's say it anyway. It's something that the other nine or 24 players in your raid need to be reminded of from time to time. If anyone reading this has never had the dubious honor of leading a raid before, I strongly urge you to peruse the following email. I'll warn you, though, it's a long one! As for you dedicated raid leaders out there, this column is for you.
Dear Scott,

This is a raid leadership question rather than a guild leadership question -- I hope that's all right! I'm not much of a leader by nature, and I could really use some advice on how to deal with the position in which I've gotten myself.

I'm not a guild leader (thank god), but I run a one-night-a-week raid group for friends who don't have the opportunity to raid more often, and for alts of members of the main raid group.

Progression-wise, we're doing fine; H 3/7, with each new fight being picked up pretty quickly. I have no complaints at all about progression, which I thought would be the main source of stress.

Instead, I've been stressing out over the drama between players -- mostly loot drama, as three members of the raid are on the same token and use similar gear -- and decision-making. I hate drama, and I hate having to make decisions that affect 9 other people and could very well be WRONG decisions (going after Beth'tilac instead of Shannox our first week in FL, for instance), and having to worry about both of these things just makes the raid a source of pressure and something I wish I could avoid.
Obviously, I'm not exactly leadership material. The problem is that there's nobody else in the group that I'd feel comfortable promoting in my stead. . .

There's also the fact that I like all of them, and I think they're all decently fond of me, but that goodwill doesn't necessarily extend towards each other, especially given the drama that's already occurred. I don't want to cause even more drama by resigning. Also -- and perhaps most importantly -- nobody wants the job. (Not that I blame them!)

We've had some great weeks where everything goes smoothly, everyone's in a good humor, there are no gear disputes or imbalances, there are no edged jokes, no sniping, I make the right calls, and it's all gravy. Then there are the weeks where that's not so much the case.

I think I'm going to have to accept that there are always going to be nights that suck, and to find a way of dealing with them that doesn't have me dreading to leave work because I know this raid is waiting for me at home. The question is HOW, and I was hoping you might have some advice on that.

The two main headaches I have now are, as mentioned, loot drama and making the right decisions.

Re: loot, I started with a loose 'need for main spec, greed for off spec and don't be greedy' system. That always worked for our casual raids back in Wrath, and I don't want people passing on minor upgrades just because they're waiting for something better and ending up with a lot of worthless shards (which is what usually happens with loot counter raids, in my experience).

I think the difference is that those Wrath raids were VERY casual; this time around, we have a set raid group actively working on progression. There's the possibility that player A will win something over player B three weeks in a row, and gear is just a bit more important than in those Wrath alt runs. To be fair, I don't think anyone is blatantly selfish; it's just that sometimes people will approach a piece of gear from different perspectives . . .

I've started posting a public loot record so that everyone can see what others have gotten and, hopefully, be more generous to those who've been unlucky, and I try to resolve some of the stickier issues in whispers, but honestly, I don't know if being gently nudged to be a bigger man and give up a piece of gear causes less resentment than an actual loot argument. It's been fine the past two weeks, but I can't help feeling on tenterhooks, waiting for something/someone to blow up again.

The other big issue is decision-making. Because we only raid one night a week (theoretically for 3 hours, though it's gone up to 5 and, on really good nights, dropped to 2), it's extremely important that no time is wasted. I always feel like I have a stopwatch ticking during raids, and I hate having to decide how long to persevere on an encounter before giving up due to time constraints. If we stop too early, people might feel dissatisfied, especially those on their mains who've never seen the boss die; also, it makes all the time we spent wiping feel rather wasted. If we push too late, people also get dissatisfied, for obvious reasons.

So far, I've always pushed until we got the encounter down. There's some grumbling when that happens, but the fact that we DO get the encounters down goes a long way towards appeasement, I think. Unfortunately, I can't rely on that happening all the time; eventually we're going to come up against a fight that we just aren't ready for, or we'll have a really off night where things just don't click. I don't want to push people past their endurance levels.

I have to find a way to deal with that. I also have to decide which heroic encounter to work on next and when to start working on it in a way that ensures maximum efficiency, and I realize these are very basic raid leader tasks, but /I don't want the responsibility for them/; there's always the constant worry in the back of my mind that I made the wrong choice and screwed everyone else over, that people aren't happy, that the raid is going badly because of my mistakes.

I'm fond of everyone in the group, and I don't want to let them down -- I believe they do enjoy the runs overall -- but I also don't want WoW to feel more like a job than my actual job, which it kind of does at this point. Please help?

Thanks very much,

Stressed

Hi, Stressed. Thank you for writing this. I think it gives a great overview of just how stressful raid leading can be -- and keep in mind that raid leaders also have to perform at a high level while they're keeping on eye on everyone else's performance.

Focus on positives

I have one word of advice for you: Relax.

I'm going to touch on some other points, but I think the main thing you need to do is stop worrying so much. Your raid is doing great on progression. It doesn't sound like you're in danger of losing anyone. And from what I can tell, people seem to respect you, even if they might disagree with you now and then. You need to look at all those positives and consider yourself lucky.

Other raid leaders are dealing with slow progression, constant turnover, players who won't listen to them, rivals who want to replace them, you name it -- in addition to the other problems you've had.

All things considered, you're doing great and your raid is doing great. Pat yourself on the back and try to focus on those positives next time you start stressing about what-ifs and second-guessing yourself.

And that goes for every raid leader out there: You guys are all doing your best, and sometimes something is going to go wrong anyway. That's OK. It's impossible to keep everyone happy 100% of the time. Just flat-out impossible. If that is your goal, you'll be disappointed every time.

Decisions, decisions

Sure, there are plenty to be made, but you don't have to shoulder the burden on your own. For example, if you don't want the task of deciding which bosses to do, that's an easy fix: Have your raiders vote on the bosses they want to hit up every week.

If you think a heroic boss is taking too long and you want to switch to normal before time runs out, poll the group and see how people feel. Ask if anyone needs the loot from normal mode. You don't have to make these choices in a vacuum and accept all the blame if the outcome is undesirable.

One change that might help you with decision-making is to set a specific raid duration and stick to it. You say your raids can go for anywhere between two and five hours. That's a pretty big gap.

If you set a fixed length, no one can complain that you kept them too late. Also, it's easier for everyone to plan their day around the raid and to stay mentally focused since they know exactly when it will end. Finally, it helps to keep people moving, running back from wipes, clearing trash quickly, and so on when they know they only have so much time to work with.

Ah, loot drama

There's really nothing else like it, is there? Unfortunately, there will always be drama with a rolling system. Even the friendliest, most generous guild will eventually run into a situation where someone gets upset about loot when RNG is involved.

With a rolling system, you can approach it in one of two ways. You either try to assign loot evenly despite the RNG through a series of arguments and/or negotiations. Or you just let everyone roll on the stuff they want and everyone agrees not to make a fuss about it. Neither approach tends to work out perfectly in the long run. Someone always refuses to negotiate. Someone always makes a fuss.

I like your idea of keeping a public record. That way people can't make ridiculous claims about how many items someone has won or how many nights they've been screwed out of loot.

Part of the problem with rolling is that players feel so helpless. There's absolutely nothing they can do about poor rolls, so they get frustrated and lash out.

A points-based system puts the control in the players' hands. Point totals are numbers that you can't argue with, and no one can game the system as long as you use silent bids. If you make your points generous (100 per night or so) compared to a minimum bid (1), you won't see much loot go to waste.

Plus you can hand out points for stuff like showing up on time, to make sure your one-night-per-week run goes off when it's supposed to. With a fixed duration, you want to start on time.

It may be overkill to use a system like that for a 10-player alt run. I think it really comes down to how you feel about the seriousness of the loot issue. If you think it's a big problem, then you might want to consider changing the system to something more rigid.

Hang in there, Stressed! Try not to take everything so seriously, recognize the accomplishments you and your raid have achieved, and make some tweaks to remove some of the more stressful elements from your plate -- you'll be much happier logging in that way.

/salute

Recently, Officers' Quarters has examined how strong new leadership can create a guild turnaround, the pitfalls of promising more than you can deliver, and lessons learned from Scott's own guild demise. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to scott@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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