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Officers' Quarters: Members turned poachers

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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.

It's bad enough for an officer when you start losing core raiders. As any long-time officer can tell you, though, things can always go from bad to worse. This week, a guild leader falls victim to a member's alt guild that suddenly turns into anything but.

Hey Scott--

We lost three of our core raiders yesterday, and may be losing more.

The girlfriend of the Raider Leader/MT in our casual 10m decided to start an "alt" guild. Not a big deal in its own right, myself and the other GM were a bit concerned about her underlying intentions; she'd been a core raider up until about three weeks prior to her founding this new guild. Myself and the other GM are not sure why the girlfriend stopped raiding with us; it was a choice of hers, and when we inquired as to whether everything was all right, we were always assured it was.

Co-GM and I noticed that to start her alt-guild, she'd recruited several members from our guild: mostly alts, but what concerned us was the handful of mains that left us to join the alt guild. Slightly annoyed that we, the leadership, hadn't been notified of her intentions, we spoke amongst ourselves with how to best handle this; if it's truly an alt guild, we should not have to worry about our ranks thinning. We weren't going to reprimand her, demote her, or remove her remaining character from the guild. We're not like that. She, along with her boyfriend, had been kind and helpful in the past.

Late the other night, I saw that the boyfriend, along with the another core raid dps who I'd been particularly close with, had left the guild to join up with the girlfriend's alt guild. I was crushed.

I did a quick /who to see if the boyfriend was on; he was and I asked why he'd left without saying anything. He pointed me to my main's mailbox where he explained that he was essentially threatened by his girlfriend: move his characters from our guild to hers, or else. He stated that he didn't want to create "RL drama" from things happening in-game, which I totally respect.

After all of that, I'm left wondering what I and the other GM should do moving forward. There may be a potential to lose more of our core members, as they have ties to people in both our guild and the "not-looking-so-much-like-an-alt-guild" guild. In the end, I want our people to have fun; if they aren't having fun with us, there may be a better fit out there. At the same time, I am confident saying we have an awesome guild, but I believe there will continue to be a concerted effort on behalf of the girlfriend to poach members from our ranks.

Do I tell people that if they'd like to go, they should go? Should I try to dig a lot deeper with the boyfriend/girlfriend to figure out if there were larger issues that lead to the defection, since thus far it's provided me with little insight? By no means are we a bleeding-edge content guild, but we are an extremely helpful, friendly and positive guild, which is an awesome environment to be in. Part of this feels like she's almost being vindictive about something, but for the life of me I can't think of what that something might be. Obviously, there's more to this story, but I'm trying to stay impartial and non-judgemental as I write this out in the hopes of getting some solid advice, and for the benefit of the progress of our guild.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Best,

-- Exodus Now

Hi, Exodus. You won't discover the key to this mystery by asking the girlfriend or your former raid leader. They have some rather compelling reasons to be dishonest with you at this point. If you want to find out what's really going on, you should ask the other people who took their mains out of your guild. They are much more likely to tell you what's really at the root of this situation.

Even though you are content with the way your guild operates, it seems pretty clear that some people weren't 100% happy with it. Your job now is to find out why and what, if anything, you should do about it.

Suspicions

In cases like this, I tend to suspect that the people who left wanted a more serious raiding environment. It's even possible that your raid leader was in on this scheme all along, and he is using his girlfriend to deflect blame. "She'll dump me if I don't go along with her"? Really? I don't buy it.

People who are raid leaders typically take raiding more seriously, even in a casual guild, and it could be that he was frustrated with some aspects of your raiding that he felt unable to fix. The way I imagine it, he was probably talking about these issues with the other players who shared his viewpoint, and he and the girlfriend finally decided to act on it. I could be way off base here, but that's the most common scenario for these situations.

About that poaching

Poaching is always a serious issue because it can have such far-flung negative consequences for your guild. When members see other members all leaving for the same guild, there is a strong temptation, if they are at all discontent, to join them.

You need to treat it as the serious problem that it is. Remove the girlfriend's toons immediately, along with her boyfriend's toons. It won't stop their poaching efforts, but at least you don't have to be a party to it. If they really intended to start an "alt guild," they wouldn't allow mains. Boot them.

Your bridge with that couple is already burnt -- I would never take anyone back who actively poached from my own guild. However, that doesn't mean you have to burn every bridge. Let other players' toons remain. It's possible that some of the people who left will realize that things were better in their former guild and return to the fold.

Damage control

As far as what you should say, there isn't much you can say that won't just make the situation worse. If you get angry, you'll just alienate people. If you get defensive, you'll just look weak. If you actively tell people they are welcome to return, then the people who haven't left might decide it's a risk-free choice to leave and see what the new guild is all about.

My advice is to be aggressive about finding out why people were unhappy and addressing those issues head on. Either make changes you think will improve the guild or decide that the people who left weren't a good fit and reaffirm what your guild stands for.

Assure your members that you and the other officers are taking all necessary steps to lead the guild toward a happy and productive future. Most importantly, stay positive! It may seem dire now, but you'll get past this as long as you don't panic.

/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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