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Officers' Quarters: Breaking good

Breaking Bad as Legos
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.

Breaks are good. Everyone needs a break from something that they do on a regular basis: work, school, sports, etc. Raiding is no different. Raiders need breaks. So do roleplayers, arena teams, and achievement junkies. Whether it's one person stepping away from WoW for a little while or a team taking a week or two off from group activities, this kind of short-term sabbatical is a healthy practice.

As an officer, breaks can be dangerous to your guild if you handle them poorly. Take a lesson from the Horde: Thrall needed a break and now Durotar is a war zone. Let's look at the right way to manage it.

Timing is critical. For guilds, there are three kinds of breaks. There's the well-deserved rest after achieving your goals. Many officers are afraid to take a break at this point because they don't want to hamstring momentum. However, it can be beneficial. If you give everyone a little time to recharge, they may be more focused as you approach the next big goal.

Then there's the break you make in preparation for a long push. The week before the next expansion, raiding tier, PvP season, etc., is a good time to rest and make sure everyone is refreshed. Even sustained success can burn players out if you never let up.

The third type of break, and the most dangerous, is when your team is not performing well. Everyone is tired and distracted, you seem to be doing worse and worse every week, and the guild is demoralized. Players are taking personal breaks as a way to step away, and since the guild is still going, attendance suffers and makes the problem worse.

If you reach this point, it probably means you waited too long to take a guild break. To avoid a catastrophe, you need to follow the steps below even more carefully.

Set a definite date to come back. The worst thing you can do in a break situation is give no time frame. Prior to the break, you must say, "Our next activity will be on this date." Otherwise, it feels too much like the guild is breaking up instead of just breaking. Players need reassurance that everything will get back to normal.

State a set of goals for your return. Goals provide confidence. Setting goals says to your members that you believe they can achieve them. Goals give everyone something to focus on during the break, whether it's watching strategy videos, improving their healing throughput while under pressure from DPS, or coming up with a new chapter in your roleplaying scenario. Like a return date, goals also reassure players that the break is, in fact, temporary.

Keep it brief. One or two weeks is the standard. Unless you are one of those guilds who rips through raid content by raiding nonstop for a few weeks and then breaking until the next tier, one or two weeks should be enough. If you go longer than that, you risk players growing impatient. You also risk having them seek out opportunities with other guilds in the meantime. If they impress this other guild, someone in that guild might try to poach them. It's a crappy situation, but it happens all the time.

Don't suggest alternatives. Never say something like, "If you absolutely have to raid, you can raid with X guild on X nights." Poaching problems aside, the point of a break is for your players to step away from whatever it is you do every week, not to find out who else is offering the same activities.

Some players will convince themselves that they can't possibly burn out because they're having so much fun. They'll just keep going and going until one day they realize they're very, very burned out. Sometimes they get so burned out this way that they quit the game completely. The purpose of breaks is to prevent that. By suggesting alternatives, you're just enabling these players to keep pushing toward that point.

Don't offer substitutes. A break is a break, not a change of pace. A change of pace can be good, too, like running old raids for pets, achievements, and transmog items instead of banging your head against a progression boss for another four hours. But when your guild really needs a break, a change of pace isn't enough.

As an officer, part of your job is to listen to your players and feel out those moments when a change of pace will do the trick or when a short break is absolutely critical.

Make sure it's not just you. If the officers have been recruiting like mad, defusing an ongoing high-drama situation, or handling some other intense duties, then it may not be the guild that needs a break, but you. Don't put your guild activities on hiatus just because the officers are tired. Instead, let the officers take a break one or two at a time over the next couple of months. Take a break when everyone needs it, not just the officers.

Part of doing something well is learning how and when to stop doing it for a little while.

/salute
Officers' Quarters keeps your guild leadership on track to cope with sticky situations such as members turned poachers or the return of an ex-guild leader and looking forward to what guilds need in Mists of Pandaria. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to scott@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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