Where Are The Posts?

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Sorry to not post anything for a while – it’s not so much that I’ve been slacking, rather I have a new job.

My exciting news is, I’m officially a columnist for Ask a Jedi, writing guild leadership advice and how-tos over there. So instead of continuing to write for my own personal side-blog, I’m putting all my creative writing efforts over there.

If you’d like to take a look, feel free to hop over! http://www.askajedi.com/2011/11/05/council-chambers-recruiting-in-the-old-republic/ is the current piece, with more to follow.

Otherwise, thanks for the reading and support, and I will not be maintaining this blog at least for the near future. Cheers and happy gaming!

More on Motivation

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Recently, our guild decided to re-open recruitment.  This is a very unusual step for us, as we’ve always relied upon word of mouth for any new members we needed.  Lately though, with WoW subscriber numbers declining overall and so many players seeming to go inactive or leave the game, we’ve found ourselves in a position to bring in some new blood.  I wanted to write a little about that, both in terms of existing members as well as new ones, and important steps to keep people engaged.

I think the biggest thing I would recommend – and one that can really make the difference in who applies or does not, who stays or goes – is the personal touch.  I talked about it a little in my last post, but I want to really emphasize how important this seems to be.  It’s silly in a way – as players, we will spend hours if not months sitting there grinding faction rep with NPCs, but often don’t want to be bothered with 10-15 minutes worth of talking to a new player and spending time answering their questions.  So if it helps, consider it “rep grinding with your members” – the quest reward is a loyal, happy member, and that in teh long term is far more valuable and lasting than a level 356 epic.

When using the in game guild finder, weed out anyone who clearly isn’t a good fit.  This may include a LOT of level 1s, as I’m finding, people who don’t bother entering in anything in their submission, or other reasons as they come up.  For the rest, why not add them to a friend’s list and look for them in game?  Send them a tell, and talk to them for a little – find out why they applied to your guild, if they’re new to the server or even the game as a whole, and learn a little more about them as a player and what they want from their guild experience.  Take the time to sell yourself as well – what makes your guild special (hint – being a level 25 guild really does NOT make you special, there are many out there and they can see that in the guild finder anyway.)  Do you have an older culture or environment?  Are you known for raiding in character?  Are any of your members “famous” in the community through a blog?  Do you all have a Thursday night movie madness, where members chat about the latest releases?  Anything at all that separates you from the hundreds of other guilds in the guild finder is worth mentioning to the prospective new member.

Why the effort?  Well, there’s a few reasons.  One – by taking the time to really talk to someone for a while, you’ll develop a better sense of who they are and, more importantly, how well they will fit into your existing guild culture.  Two – by taking the time to talk to them, they will likely be more interested in you and your guild, especially if you require applications.  If your only contact with a potential member is “Here’s our website, apply there” – well, unless you’re the #1 raiding guild on your server, odds are that’s not good enough in the current state of WoW.  So if you’re asking the potential member to do work applying, do your own work up front and get them interested enough to want to apply!

As far as existing members, well – a lot of these things still apply.  When you log on some afternoon or evening to do your daily/weekly grind, talk to folks.  Not just, “Hey guys”, but really try talking to them a little – if you’re an RP guild, put some real effort into RPing with them.  If you’re not, well – start some chit-chat, whether about something in the news, a new movie or album, or really anything at all that strikes your fancy or you’d talk to your offline friends about.  The more you can engage people, the more you give them to stick around and spend more time together – and that, when it comes down to it, really is one of the core parts of being in a guild or an MMO in the first place.  If not for the people, why not single player, right?

So – today’s recommendation is, talk to folks, whether new or old – make them feel a little special and part of the group, and you’ll have a much better chance of encouraging them to join or remain part of the group.  Next week’s topic – hmm, I’ll have to brainstorm a bit and see what leaps out at me. ;)  Until next time!

Team Spirit – Motivating Members in Quiet Times

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Sorry for the delay in posting!  This past weekend was our guild’s annual real life meet-and-greet, so I spent a fantastic few days offline hanging out and catching up with folks. Miss them already and looking forward to the spring, but in the meantime – let’s talk motivation!

Most folks have noticed that things in World of Warcraft are downright quiet lately.  Now, I won’t speculate on the causes of why that is, you can read plenty about that elsewhere.  The fact remains though, the game is down by about a million subscribers, with I suspect at least as many inactive.  In practice, that means it’s a tough time for guilds.  Guilds that are active and trying to push raid content are all recruiting actively for members, and it seems like there’s a smaller pool of members to go around.  Even active members are starting to become less so, as we hit the lull before BlizzCon and patch 4.3, and you may notice while your roster stays roughly the same size – the number of folks logging in each evening aren’t as many as they were a year ago.  So what’s a guild leader to do?

As a guild leader, the first and most important thing is to set a good example.  Guilds very much follow the cues of their leadership and officers – so if you’re not logging in very much, odds are your members won’t continue to do so either.  If you want to keep your membership active and engaged in game, then the first place you need to start is with yourself.  Make it a point to log in and hang out for a little – try to talk to folks as they hop on, make an extra effort to be chatty and friendly.  If a guild feels welcoming when someone logs in, they’re a lot more likely to stay around or log in more.  Nobody enjoys logging in to a ghost town, or when they log on and nobody seems to notice.  So work to make folks feel welcome and wanted, and ask your officers to do the same.

The next thing is to think about providing new activities.  I don’t mean adding more raid nights, or heroics – odds are your members are already doing the leveling/raiding/gearing things.  For RP guilds, try to come up with some interesting events for your members – maybe work on a new story or arc that involves active participation, or even develop some sort of mystery for people to interact with.  For non-RP guilds, there are still all sorts of member events that can be a lot of fun!  A raiding guild I’ve worked with used to have in-Ventrilo karaoke contests, which were always an absolute hoot.  WoW Idol, anyone?  Our guild is hosting a scavenger hunt this week – again, a really fun social activity that either RP or non-RP guilds can do, and one that requires very little work to prepare.  Have your organizers come up with a list of obscure, silly, or unique in-game items and then have your members organize into teams.  The first team back wins a prize!  I won’t post our list of items this year (since the event is tonight – no spoilers!) – but in the past, I’ve included items such as a Brewfest ram (didn’t have to be theirs), a gnome warrior (watching the general and trade chat messages in Ironforge for this are *hilarious*), a message in a bottle, dark iron bars, mead, and a goblin magazine.  It’s a great way to get members active and doing stuff together without a lot of heavy planning or preparation.  Other event ideas can be fishing contests, Hallow’s End Costume parties, a fashion show, a race, or even some level 1 gnome/goblin capers.  (Our most famous was a level 1 all-gnome raid on Ogrimarr – the poor Horde didn’t know whether to kill us or help us!  Apparently their general/trade chat was full of hilarity for at least an hour or so.)

Really, the bottom line for any quiet period in game is to find ways to make the game feel fun, fresh, and exciting for your members again.  These periods always show up in any MMO – typically, you see them about 2-3 months before the next expansion is released, when folks realize that their current raid gear will soon be outdated (and thus raiding loses its appeal) and everyone’s looking forward to the new shinies.  But it’s not unusual to notice any time a new patch and raid get ready to drop, and right now with so many games either competing with or getting ready to release, players don’t know where to turn or focus their attention.  So as long as you really invest the time and energy into making your guild feel like a fun and happenings place, you’ll continue to keep your members engaged and active.

The TL:DR version:

1.  Set a good example by staying active yourself and showing a good, positive attitude

2.  Be friendly!  Make an extra effort to talk to people and make them feel welcome

3.  Events!  Organize fun, non-raid/PvP/leveling activities to give your members something new and exciting to look forward to

Managing Officers

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To close out the officer series, I’m going to try and tackle one of the tougher parts of leading a guild today – how to manage and potentially dismiss officers.  Hiring officers is fairly straightforward, and usually a flattering request for the recipient.  It’s never easy to demote someone, though.  Often, you become fairly good friends with your officers over time – especially if they’ve served quite a while.  This is actually the first topic I wrote to Scott Andrews over, a couple years ago – you can read his comments here.  (You can tell it’s me when the letter is so wordy, it gets parsed down!)  His advice was excellent, so my first recommendation is to take his advice there.

So basically, there are three reasons you might need to part ways with an officer.  The first is inactivity.  This is the easiest to deal with.  Being an officer can often burn players out – after all, unless you’re fabulously wealthy in the real world and willing to pay people, your officers are all volunteers.  They volunteer their time, energy, and put themselves in challenging positions on your and the guild’s behalf just to help out and because it is asked of them.  After a few months – and especially, after a few years, like many of us in our current guild – it can really get tiring.  Sometimes, people will speak up themselves and ask to retire, which is the best outcome.  Other times, they just – disappear quietly, logging in once in a blue moon or vanishing altogether.  On top of all of the normal reasons that lead an officer to quietly fade, WoW is definitely hitting a dull patch in terms of development, and a LOT of players these days are going inactive and/or cancelling their subscriptions.  There’s a lot of speculation on why that is that you can read elsewhere, but what it means for guild leaders is that you can expect an even higher rate of inactives than you normally would.  So – how do you handle inactive officers?  If you use forums, I recommend sending the person a PM (private message) first, explaining that you’ve noticed they’re not around very often.  From there, you can ask them if everything is ok and if they expect to become more active in game again, so you can keep them on the officer roster or if they’re busy and would like to retire, or you can just explain that they no longer seem to be managing the activity level and you’ll need to bump them back down to member rank.  Personally, I recommend the former – but it really depends on your personal management style.  I also recommend making sure the person knows that if they do become more active again, you can restore their previous position.  Then wait for a response, or if a week or two go by and you never hear, well – that’s a response too, in a way. ;)  Go ahead and bump them back down to member in game, and find a new, active member to fill that role.

The second reason you might be forced to demote an officer is abuse of power – and the good news is, this is actually much easier to deal with in terms of emotional involvement than the last type.  Abuse of power can take a few forms – in an early case, we had an officer stealing epics from the guild bank to use for his (unguilded, no less) alts without paying for them.  It can also be belligerence, belittlement of players or treating people in a way outside of the guild rules, breaking guild rules in general, or seeking personal profit from their position as officer (such as the “embezzelement” case above.)  Now the good news is – if the person you trusted to uphold the responsibilities of the guild is failing in that duty, it’s straightforward to fire them.  Point to the rule(s) in question they were violating, and then you can choose to either ask for a response or improvement, or just dismiss them from service.  If you do a disciplinary meeting – which I would recommend either for a first-time offense or a less severe one – then set clear guidelines about your own expectations, as well as how long the probationary period will be.  The more up front you are about your expectations and any deliverables, the easier this is to handle.  The reason I say this is the easiest of types to manage is because – well, in my experience, when I catch an officer abusing the power I entrusted with this, I get a little steamed about it.  It’s a lot less like kicking a puppy, and a lot more like holding someone accountable for being corrupt.  Remember – as with anything, always be polite and professional, but firm.

That leaves us with the third reason – which is what prompted me to write Scott all those years ago.  It’s lack of activity.  This is different from inactivity, where the officer in question stops playing the game (or that character) and just isn’t around anymore.  Lack of activity is where the person in question is active in game – logging in, checking forums, being around and available.  They’re just not really helping as much anymore, their responsibilities are falling through the cracks, and more and more work is left to the other officers or the guild leader.  Now, the easy temptation here is to just promote new officers – find someone else willing to take on those tasks and promote them, and leave the other officer at rank so you can avoid the awkward conversation.  But the problem is, this isn’t the best way to handle it – and in fact, if this comes up again with another officer, soon you’ll find your guild top-heavy with many officers and few members to manage.  Really, you will need to sit down and talk with the officer, ask them if everything is ok and if they’re still interested in being an officer for the guild.  I recommend treating them politely and professionally, trying to balance being both a friend but also a boss.  This is HARD.  On the one hand, you need to be very sympathetic, because it may be there’s something going on in that person’s life that is preoccupying them and taking away their energy to deal with in game personnel management.  Going into there asking why they’re not doing their job is a recipe for failure, and likely to alienate the officer – which is doubly bad if there is some background issue going on.  Other times, the officer just – enjoys the rank and having a special chat line to their other friends, but has lost either their enthusiasm for the game, or their energy and commitment to upholding their officer responsibilities.  In this case, I’d recommend one of two solutions.  First – you can explain that the duties still need doing, and if they can’t manage their previous workload then you’d like to ask them to step down as member so you can have someone else take that over.  Second, you can create an “emeritus” rank – a rank for retired officers (and potentially which can also include honored or valued members who are not officers, in special cases) that will allow them officer chat privileges, but without the responsibilities. This allows the person(s) in question to still have access to ochat, but again frees up the officer slot for someone who has the time, energy and availability to take on the extra work and stay on top of it.

Above all, I recommend being a mix of polite, professional, and firm.  You want to be sympathetic and understanding, but not so much so that you wind up with an entirely inactive officer corps that leaves you handling all the day to day work.  You want to be firm and clear about expectations, but not so much that you sound like a tyrant.  Remember, above all – officer is a VOLUNTEER position, so be understanding about that and what it entails – you’re not paying them, so be reasonable in your expectations.

Next time, we’ll talk a little bit about game burnout in general, and how to help motivate members and players during the down times of guild recruiting/game play.

 

Wanted: Good Officers, Apply Within

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So – last time, we talked about Officer hiring models, and my experiences with the models.  This time I want to talk a little bit more about qualities that seem to make a good officer.  This can be tough – some are easy to measure (time online, for instance), and others can be harder (how does one measure maturity?)  Ultimately, it’s going to be a combination of observation, current officer consensus (for guilds that already exist and have officers), and a bit of sixth sense or gut hunch thrown into the mix.  Below is an initial list of qualities I usually request from prospective officer candidates.

Primary requirements are:

1.       Ability to be online around 15 hours a week.  Being an officer is a time commitment, and while officers don’t need to be around that much *every* week, they should plan on that (or 3 nights a week) as an average.  If your guild raids or is active more often, you may need to alter this to meet your own guild’s needs.

2.      Willingness to chip in on a number of tasks.  This may include things like new member recruitment, dispute resolution/mediation, raid organization, and social events and outings.  Ideally, a guild will have one officer take point on each of these issue areas (see below) but other officers may be asked to help in outside their area from time to time.

3.      Leadership and initiative.  The other big part of being an officer is to get things done for the guild!  So initiative and a willingness to go out there and do is a big plus – guilds are looking for people who have the time, energy, and commitment to make those visions a reality.  No matter how nice a person, if they don’t have leadership skills, probably not a great choice for an officer.

4.  Ability to manage conflict situations.  This can be the toughest one to fill – nobody likes conflict or arguing with people, and the rare few who do probably aren’t good officer material in the first place.  But, it’s a core part of the job – someone has to be willing to step in and resolve member disputes when they flare up out of nowhere and the guild leader isn’t around.  Also – no matter how wonderful the guild leader, we all have bad days and periodic bad decisions (or, less than ideal decisions) – and if you have a guild full of officers who are just yes men and won’t speak up to raise the questions that should be asked in these occasions, who will?

Aside from this, you want people who are level-headed and not prone to being reactionary.  (By reactionary, I mean they won’t rise to the bait if someone is trying to provoke them.)  You want someone willing to lead and assert themselves, but not so much so that you’re battling them for control on a regular basis.  So a lot of this is a balancing game – keeping a good eye on the members, seeing who might have some of these qualities, talking to them to see if officering interests them, and then trying to match them to the position that best suits their skill sets.

Some generalities on that, from my own observations:

  • Social event and recruiting officers are often extroverted and outgoing members, since you need to be comfortable gathering groups and talking to strangers
  • Raid leaders are often very good at details and organization – they benefit from knowing and prepping members about boss fights, gear lists, and good web sites for classes
  • Technical officers are tech savvy (duh, right?)  Not much more to be said there, really

My final comment is to realize that not everyone asked will want to be an officer.  A lot of the people I’ve approached over the years as showing good competence in the above areas were already officers elsewhere and for other games/guilds for exactly those reasons – or perhaps, that’s where they learned those skills.   Some of us are willing to serve more than once, others – once they retire, they retired and they like having a place to just play.  Do not push someone if they decline!  There’s a lot to be said for just being a player and only having to worry about your own playing experience, rather than everyone in the guild’s.  It’s a high burnout position, so if you ask and the person declines – respect that, and don’t push.  Plus, if you don’t force the issue – a lot of times, they’ll reconsider and offer.

So, that’s some of my experience on what to look for in an officer.  Next post, we’ll talk about how to handle it when officers don’t manage to keep up their responsibilities and some diplomatic ways of managing that.

Hiring Officers

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Over the years, we’ve tried a lot of different styles of hiring officers.  In prepping for TOR, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this – what seemed to work well in terms of finding really effective officers and leaders, and what seemed to work less well?

In brief, there’s a few models you can go with:

1. People who are most active/contribute most.  This seems to have been the one we relied upon the most frequently, though I don’t think it’s actually the best model to go with.  It will find you really great, active members – and probably folks you, as well as most other members, get along with well.  Unfortunately, if you’re not clear about exactly the tasks that you need for that person to do, you may wind up with a lot of officers who are really great, active members, but not necessarily leaders.  Leadership is something that yes, sometimes can be trained, but is often an innate thing as well.  For instance – people are either comfortable, or not comfortable, in stepping in to moderate a player dispute when it happens.  Just being a really active member who puts a lot of stuff in the guild bank does not indicate that the person will be able to step in and handle that scenario above.

2.  Role Specific, either by request or by application.  Rather than doing the above, just finding general officers who contribute a lot and then putting them into positions, you can create the position first and then work to fill it with persons who seem best suited to do *that* particular job.  The above model is a little more “inviting someone to the club because we like you”, this one is more of hiring for a job.  You’ll see this a lot in raiding guilds with class leads, where a class lead (or role) vacancy occurs and they look for the best people in that role to tap as a potential officer.  While we haven’t used this model as much as the above, in my experience it works out better in the long run in terms of matching up not just nice, active members who contribute but really matching personality types and particular skill sets to roles that rely on those skills.  It also gives you clear benchmarks to measure accountability – otherwise, too many general officers or ambiguous roles means you have no way of really evaluating which of your officers are contributing to the work and which are just enjoying that special extra chat line (or maybe just don’t know what to do?)  As my husband recently put it in humor, “You’re failing to meet the expectations we never provided you.”

My recommendation is definitely creating the job or officer role first, then seek to fill it.  Now – I’m fairly agnostic about whether applications for the specific role (advertising the position and then hiring based on applications) or targeted recruitment (identifying a couple people who seem like they’d be good at that role and asking if they want to serve) is the better way of filling those spots.  Honestly, not sure it matters – I have seen both work very well.  So on that, I’d say it’s more a matter of personal style.  The only selling point to applications is – sometimes a person you hadn’t thought of will surprise you by expressing an interest and applying for a role you never imagined for them.  One of our longest-term raid leaders was someone I would never have considered for the job before he expressed an interest in it, but he applied for it, had a very strong application, and turned out to do an excellent job.

The last thing I would say is – definitely be on the lookout for officer bloat! I’m a firm believer in, Less Is More.  It’s easy to let officer size sneak away from you – for instance, sometimes one (or more) of your officers goes inactive for a while and that puts you in a position that you need to fill that vacancy or the work doesn’t get done.  If you don’t demote that inactive officer though, there’s a very good chance they could at some point resume activity again – and now you’ve got more officers than you bargained for, and perhaps without a clear role.  It’s also important to establish those roles clearly so you can ensure the work you need to get done is getting done.  There are tasks every guild has to manage, no matter how big or small – things like discipline, recruiting, and communication (whether in game, through forums, or whatever).  The bigger the guild, the more tasks there are to manage – guild bank maintenance perhaps, class or role leads, social activities, raid leading, technical support, advertising, all kinds of potential jobs.  If you wind up with even a couple officers who aren’t really carrying their weight or staying on top of their role and job – again, it becomes incredibly easy to wind up with huge amounts of officer bloat if you just keep promoting new people to fill those roles, but don’t work out the issues from the officers who aren’t actively filling a role.

I again stress – this may or may not be the officer’s fault.  Sometimes it is – either they burned out a little on the game and don’t have the heart to tell you, but gradually withdraw.  Sometimes they work really hard until they get the promotion, but in their mind the promotion was the goal and they stop working once they get the rank.  Other times, they work really hard for a long time – often shouldering extra burdens for other offices – and then just run out of energy and need a break.  And sometimes – Life Happens, and they can’t find the time they used to.   Plus – even when none of these are true, a lot of good officers just don’t have a clear sense of their job and what they need to do on a regular basis, so it’s hardly fair to punish them for not doing something if you haven’t been very clear and up front about what it is you need them to do.  But – if you have been clear, and the work isn’t getting done, then you need to sit down with them as a leader and explain that you really appreciate and thank them for their service and previous contributions, but the work currently isn’t getting done and that you need to know if they can either step up to stay on top of that load, or if they need to take a break and retire so you can fill the role elsewhere.  I know nobody likes saying that to friends, but the alternative – which far too many guild leaders do, to avoid having that conversation – is to just keep promoting new officers, and this is a recipe for failure on so many fronts.

So – that’s today’s entry, a little bit about the main ways of breaking down officer responsibilities and the pros and cons of each hiring method.  I’ll try to write up some more next time on actually coming up with tasks, management styles, and accountability round 2.  Thanks for reading!

Lessons from a Leader III: Weeding and Pruning

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I’m a bit of a gardener in my off-line life, and weeding and pruning your garden regularly is one of the true keys to a healthy, successful yard.  Problem players are a lot like crabgrass – if you pull them out early, before their roots spread too far and wide, you can do it rather smoothly and prevent the rest of your plants from being choked out.  Let it go too long though, and it really can wreck the entire effort – casting runners long and far throughout your plants until the healthy ones start dying off and the entire garden’s potentially at risk of being destroyed.  Gardeners are told to weed and prune regularly, get the weeds while they’re small and before they spread throughout – a small bit of work regularly can prevent a lot of labor and trauma to your plants, rather than waiting until the weed problem is out of control.

Of the areas I think we perhaps did our worst in terms of the first great guild experiment, handling problem children is up there towards the top.  The problems for our leadership have always been – one, we’re generally pretty nice people who don’t like causing drama or hurting other people’s feelings.  Two, we are heavily conflict averse as an officer corps – too much so, in my opinion.  Avoiding conflict is a healthy thing in small doses, but like with many things it needs to be in moderation – too much, and it means you’re just avoiding dealing with your issues.  In my opinion, I think Veritas spent too much time in that latter zone, trying to just smooth things over and have everyone get along when the better course of action was probably to remove from the roster.  In fact, I’d be hard pressed to name a single successful case of “rehabilitation”, where a problem member actually improved after warnings and disciplinary actions, rather than just lay low a bit and then continue to cause issues later.

So the real challenge is – how do you know what is a problem member, and when to prune them?

Our “official” policy is three strikes, you’re out – just like baseball.  I put officially in quotes because in reality, if often seemed to turn into about 6-10 strikes before you’re actually out.  Furthermore, I wonder if even three is too generous?  We’ve always treated dismissal like it’s some sort of horrible fate, the way we avoid it – and when it comes down to it, it’s really not that big of a deal, especially if handled sooner rather than later.  After all, we’re just one of many, many guilds out there.  Kicking someone out does not remove their ability to play the game, to raid, to roleplay, or do any number of the vast majority of activities in any MMO.  It just takes away the ability to do so with your particular group.  And yes, while if the player in question has been around a long time and made some close friendships, or had time to foster discontent, it can be very disruptive for the guild.  That’s why I recommend – do it early, before those roots get in and cause upheaval.

If I had to do it all over again, I’d only give one warning – with latitude to modify based upon the offense.  If the offense is minor, something like being disruptive in raiding or having a fit over loot, you can always extend this.  However, anything that is truly disruptive to players – namely, getting into personal arguments with other members, causing another member to quit the guild by direct action, sowing discontent, or openly disparaging and criticizing the leadership, I say one stern warning and then off you go.  (Please note – I add this latter not to say that the leadership is infallible – but there are constructive ways of handling these issues and destructive ones.  Offering suggestions and raising concerns to other officers is constructive.  Pointing fingers and just criticizing openly is disruptive – and really when it comes down to it, if you don’t like the way that group’s leadership works, then why should they work to keep you there, right?)

I think on the next post, I’ll write down what I would recommend implementing as behavioral rules.  The bottom line really is though, you’ll know when you see it.  When multiple players raise concerns about the same individual – even if the concerns seem nebulous (I just – don’t like the guy/girl, I don’t really get along with them, etc) – I’d recommend trusting their gut.  Sometimes, a person just feels wrong, they aren’t fitting in to the culture or they’re just – keeping things off-kilter.  Remember – being in the guild is a privilege, not a right, and it DOES NOT ultimately harm or ruin their game experience being in another guild.  They can still play the game as much as they want, this is not capital punishment or anything that will hurt their ability to get a job in the real world.  Lighten up Francis, it’s just a game after all.

Things to look for:

- Failing to get along with other members.  There’s a difference between keeping to themselves (not bad), and seeming to come into conflicts with other members.  Even when the other member says it’s mutual, watch for patterns.  If different people seem to run into personality conflicts or arguments with the same person – they are a problem, remove them.  Even without hard evidence or screenshots – really, you don’t need them.  The first time, it’s one person v. another.  The second – it’s a second data point.  By the third?  Well if all these other people seem to get along well with others, you’ve found your weak link in the chain – fix it.

- Refusal to take responsibility for actions.  Sadly, this comes up more and more with younger folks, just part of recent American culture maybe.  But if you sit down to talk with someone about a problem or issue and all their responses are either “It’s someone else’s fault, not mine” or other things along those lines?  Problem.  Well-balanced people take ownership – sure, sometimes it’s a bad day, and that’s ok.  But when you’re faulting other people for your mistakes?  Immature and uncool, and odds are they won’t change in future meetings.

- Lying.  Parenting 101 here, folks.  Little white lies are one thing, but lying to avoid trouble or putting someone else in trouble?  Bad juju, you don’t want it.

- Snarkiness/Mean Streaks.  Some people are just – mean, catty, belittling, or negative.  While you may want to help them, it’s not your job and that can really spread through a guild like a toxin.  If you have someone who’s always critical, cruel, mean, or just petty – I sincerely doubt ANYTHING they are contributing is worth asking your friends to endure that.  No DPS, tank, healer, etc is so good they get carte blanche to just be a brute – so let them do it elsewhere and cut them loose.

- Self-Centeredness/Neediness.  This is one of the toughest to pinpoint, because we all have days where we’re a little needy.  But when you see the same person continuing to demand 90% of the attention, stop and take a second look.  Does it seem like to matter how many private sessions you put aside to mentor them in raiding and their class/role, they’re *still* demanding or pleading for help, and not learning to bookmark sites or do their own research?  Are they always RPing a victim?  Kidnapped all the time, assaulted, abused child, possessed by a demon, or any sort of other victim/save me RP?  Sure, there are guilds that cater to that and encourage it – but none I want to be in.  So my personal advice is – point them in the direction of a guild that caters to that, and save your own time and energy as well as that of your members.  If the above type of person is a toxin, this one’s a drain – a good irl friend of mine calls these sorts of people psychic vampires – no matter how much you give, they always need more, more, more til you’re out and still they need.  It’s exhausting, not just for your officers but even for your members having to devote so much of their attention to one person.  Give them all a break, and weed that crabgrass!

Here’s the bottom line, and what you have to keep repeating to yourself as a mantra when you’ve got to make these decisions and weed problems.  Odds are, the problem player won’t – and perhaps can’t – change who they are.  It’s not ruining their life, it’s just making a decision about if who *they* are and who your guild is are a good match.  If they’re not, it’s a bad relationship for both parties – sure, you can force it, you can make it work and keep it going for years.  But is that really helping?  Or is it better to have the hard talk sooner, so you protect your guild family and they can maybe find a group who better fits them too?

At the end of the day, your guild is one of only hundreds, and dismissing a problem from the roster will not truly harm them in any lasting way – and often, you’d be surprised no matter how they carry on at the time, how quickly people on the internet move on.  Think about the benefit of the entire organism, the greater guild good, and protect that culture so that it stays healthy, happy, flourishing and bearing fruit, rather than having its soil and nutrients drained by rapidly spreading, harmful weeds.  And if it makes you feel better, go ahead and wear gardening gloves. :)

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