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Officers' Quarters: In the wake of drama, tragedy

funeral for a player
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.

Drama happens in guilds. As officers, we do everything we can to avoid it. Sometimes we make mistakes that set us up for it. At other times, it's simply inevitable. Much of it is stupid and pointless. However, nothing puts it all in perspective like a sudden, shared tragedy. This week, a guild leader wonders how he can deal with this terrible circumstance in the aftermath of a guild-shattering argument.

Scott,

I have a really difficult problem that I would like your advice, or at least your opinion. This problem is two fold and I will start with the short but serious series of events that have transpired the last few days. I (basically) started the guild a week before Cataclysm. We took off quick and became extremely successful. One of the first guilds to hit 25 on the server (which made me a really proud guild leader).

Early in the guilds history, we had a member join our guild, lets call him Eddie. Eddie has an abrasive personality and he tends to insult people. The thing is, hes not and never is being serious. He jokes and unless you spend more than 5 minutes talking to him, you just assume he's insulting you, which he's not. Well Eddie, being new to the guild (that had relatively little officers), hit the ground running and showed qualities of a true leader. He built our raid team, geared people, taught people, and did his job in a way that I've not seen done even as I raided through Wrath. Eddie however joined the military and had to leave for Basic Training. When he left, it was agreed upon that the raid leader spot would be temporarily given to another officer and would be given back when Eddie returned.

When Eddie was gone, we progressed pretty far and the Interim Raid leader was slowly getting the hang of it. During this time also, our 10 man team slowly lost and gained members and before long we had almost an entirely new set of people.
When Eddie came back, problems arose quickly. People who were new to the guild since Eddie went to basic weren't sure what to make of his personality which they considered too rash. After seeing how people reacted to his return, I decided to go out of my normal principles and I told Eddie I wanted to do a trial to let people get used to him before introducing them to a leader they've never met and who's never done Firelands. The trial would be just to start a 2nd raid team, and once it was up an running and progressing (so he could learn the fights a bit better too), he would be returned to Raid Leader.

This was discussed to the interim and would not be a problem. However, one member in particular didnt like Eddie's abrasive attitude and constantly complained about what he would say. She once said "I just feel bad for him as he embarrasses himself". I explained that if she ever seen him breaking a rule and could screenshot it, I would take care of it, but simply not liking someone was not reason enough. This continued and even though Eddie hadn't broken a rule, I felt he could present himself in a better way and I told him privately that he needed to watch how he acts if he wants peoples respect. He apologized and he seemed to really even out after that. Although he still angered her again later and she quit anyway.

So yesterday, everything hit the fan. I got attacked by one of the guild members (an officer no less) because they felt that Eddie didn't deserve to be raid leader when he gets done with the raid team. I tried to explain why and he ignored anything I said and just kept praising the interim. While I'm trying to calm him, I have another member in guild spamming "Earn your spot", referring directly to Eddie. I'm trying to keep the peace while also holding my ground and eventually the first guild member who attacked me quit. Then the second started flaming Eddie and I had enough and kicked him. Then another officer quit, and slowly my raid team quit. Of my 10 man team only three of the 8 left who left, left on good terms. Which left me with only one member who didn't leave my guild who was on our 10 man team.

Well last night I got a text from the interim (who left) saying the one who hadn't left hadn't been on in 5 days and missed raid last week, and he thought he may know why. We found out today for certain, and the reason was because he died 5 days ago while playing a game he loved. He was a great member and would have never given into drama like this. He will be truely missed and everyone who knew him is just starting to grieve. It is for that reason that I want to have a funeral or similar function in game to allow those who knew him to pay their respects to a man they never met in real life, but loved none the less. The problem I now face, is how do I do so in a way that doesn't let drama ensue when you consider that most of the people that knew him are now separated into two different guilds who are basically opposites. How can I honor him, without disrespecting what should be a group grieving process.

Signed,
Phobituary
Hi, Phobituary. I'm very sorry to hear about your loss. It's never an easy thing to handle in an online setting, and in this case it's doubly difficult given all the recent drama. However, I think that you should try to put together a memorial ceremony for this player, regardless.

Tragedy transcends drama

Something like this goes so far beyond the petty bickering of online life. It puts into perspective how small a problem like choosing a raid leader really is. If people don't realize that, it's their problem, not yours.

My suggestion would be to go ahead with whatever you feel is appropriate and invite everyone who knew him. Include all those from the splinter guild, whether they left on good terms or not.

However, you need safeguards that the event won't degenerate into another drama outbreak. Hold the actual ceremony in raid chat or on your own voice chat server. That way, you can control the proceedings. If anyone starts to act inappropriately, you can just kick them from the raid or chat server.

Holding it in a more private setting will also prevent general server population trolling. People have a habit of announcing and holding these things publicly. While doing so can certainly result in a bigger turnout, it can also lead to some truly horrific outcomes.

An unfortunate promise

I know this is nowhere near your top priority right now, but as for the raid leader situation, it's not likely to be salvaged at this point. Things simply went too far, too fast.

In the future, I'd recommend not making promises to players who are leaving for extended periods of time. Guild leaders should always be wary of making promises that they may not be able to deliver on. The big one is when guild leaders hand the guild over to someone else, and that person promises to hand the guild back when the original leader returns.

Many times, they regret the promise either because they don't want to step down or because the guild has changed so much in the meantime that the returning leader is no longer the best person to lead. A returning raid leader puts everyone in a similar situation. As you've seen, guild cultures can change quite rapidly when there is high turnover.

Rather than making a promise, it's always better simply to say, "We'll evaluate what's best for the guild when you come back." In this case I think the raid leader issue was forced on a guild that wasn't ready for it. The "earn your spot" trolling was completely childish and unnecessary, but ultimately that player had a point.

When you're gone for a long time like that, regardless of the cause, you need to get up to speed both in terms of gear and experience in the zone. Due to Eddie's previous efforts, he certainly should have been given a chance to raid with the guild and build himself back up to a player who could lead raids.

Even so, setting him up as the future raid leader immediately after his return was not the right time. It was also somewhat disrespectful to the interim raid leader who had so much success to begin replacement talks right away.
A better option might have been to keep the interim leader until Eddie got more comfortable with the current raid zone and the other players got more comfortable with him. Then talk to both raid leaders about the situation and see if they both want to lead raids. If that was the case, they could have switched off from week to week or even split duties. Either way, it's less wear and tear on your raid leaders, which is always important given that it's the most high-stress position in a guild next to guild leader itself.

Granted, your raiders certainly did not respond to the situation with anything approaching maturity or understanding. That's the other half of the problem here. Members of our military deserve support and patience when their duties get in the way of their guild responsibilities.

At this point, you essentially have two choices: You can rebuild, or you can walk away. I don't envy you either situation.

/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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