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.
In this week's email, an officer explains how a fun side conversation during raids evolved into a secret cabal, and he doesn't know what to do about it.
I am a Co-Guild Leader in a semi-social 10 man raiding guild. We like to have a fun, relaxing environment, while keeping our raiding standards high. Our guild was originally formed as a break-up of another, and so myself and my co-guild leader, (hereby known as X) formed my current guild.
Ventrilo is required for our raids, so that we can instruct and direct our raiders. When we first began raiding in this new guild, myself and X would sit together on Skype, so that we could discuss how to approach the raids we were in, quicker than in officers chat, for example. This raidly skype conversation then encompassed our second tank, so that X and himself could quickly communicate (they were both IRL friends, and English is a second language to them). Gradually, this conversation would grow over time, until all of X's real life friends would be a part of it, so we would end up having half of our raid in this Skype Conversation. Some old in-game friends rejoined the guild, and again, this Skype conversation grew, until every raid, 6-7 raiders were in it, with ventrilo still running. And this, undoubtedly, was a lot of fun.
At this point, I left the Skype conversations, and stuck strictly to ventrilo for several reasons -
a) My laptop and quite frankly, internet, couldn't handle a 7 man Skype call, WoW, Ventrilo and several tabs of Google Chrome all being open at the same time.
b) I started to feel guilty over those raiders that weren't privy to these select, fun Skype calls.
c) It's very difficult to concentrate when you have that amount of people, without Push to Talk, all raiding at once.
However, I recently watched several of our guild's old kill videos, and they are drastically different to what I experience. Everyones having great fun, the heart pumping moments when a new boss is that close to dying, as compared to what I feel recently, hollow. With most the raid on Skype, there is little need to call out specific instructions... Now, when I raid, I essentially raid in near silence, with a few abilities or strategy changes called before or after bosses. Additionally, as a now back-up/co raid leader, I feel like decisions are just by-passing me without discussion, as opposed to what happened in tier 11.
Long story short, it's reached a point where I don't enjoy raiding as much as I once did. It's all very well being a part of a raid, where 3/5ths of it are having a blast, and the rest of us raid in near silence. If I approach the other officers, and ask that the Skype conversations be banned, will I be seen as the 'bad guy' (believe me, I couldn't care less what people think of me, I'm not affected by that kind of thing, but when in a position of leadership, you wonder if your raiders will ever trust you again). I feel like an outsider looking in, and I'd appreciate any advice that you, or the commenters have to offer over the situation.
Hi, Lonely. One question for you: Do the others in the guild know about these Skype conversations or their large scope? For our purposes here, I'm going to assume that they don't -- and that makes your current situation perilous.
The allure of secrets
What your fellow officers have created here is essentially a "secret society" within the guild. There are those who know about it and who lead a "double life" in raids. They participate in the normal Vent conversations but they are also simultaneously privy to hidden and far more graphic conversations.
I understand the appeal of such a "club." It's a universal human trait that we want to belong to such things. They make us feel special -- or, in other words, "better" than other people -- because we belong to it. When it allows us to communicate in private, that privacy tends to evoke more outrageous behavior. There is also the possibility of getting "caught." All of this makes a "secret society" fun and exciting.
A dangerous game
Let's be honest, however, about what it is. The Skype group was selected from among the co-guild leader's friends. It's a clique, and it's a powerful and dangerous one. I hate to sound so dramatic here, but this clique could ruin everything you guys have built up. Other guilds have crumbled due to less divisive behavior than this.
Imagine how you would feel, as a regular member, if you found out that the officers and their friends had their own chat going on behind the scenes that you weren't privy to. The fact that it happens at all isn't really the problem -- it's the fact that it's during raids, when the guild is supposed to be working together toward a common goal.
You've got a dilemma here. Your guild probably wouldn't want constant chatter during raids, especially if it's offensive or in a language they don't understand. There's a danger that shutting down the Skype group and bringing them into Vent will be too distracting. It could dramatically change the raiding experience in your guild and drive people away.
On the other side, your co-guild leader and his friends won't want to give up their fun conversations. By asking them to stop, you risk alienating them. They may also find that raiding isn't as much fun when they don't have a lively private channel. They might consider leaving to form their own raid group where they won't have to censor themselves.
Sealing the breach
I think you can reach a compromise here. You can't control what people do on their own time, nor should you try to. As co-raid leader, however, you can request that they skip the Skype conversations during raids. In fact, it sounds like your Vent conversations could stand to be a little less stale.
No one wants to raid in total silence. Sure, concentration is very important during boss fights, and you don't want distracting comments flying around when everyone is trying to execute an encounter. The percent that you're actually in combat with bosses, though, is rather low compared to the total (and it's even lower now, thanks to the Throne of Thunder's crazy trash ...). These other times -- clearing to bosses, waiting for AFK players, etc. -- are relatively boring, and that's when comments and conversation are welcome.
Yes, this very well could make you the "bad guy." It sounds like you don't mind that, and I think it has to be done. I hope they can understand how bad this really is for the guild and how it's also affecting you on a personal level.
For other guilds out there, take this as a warning. What starts as a harmless channel can become an insidious breach in your community. These things can be utterly destructive. Whether or not these secret cliques are exposed is besides the point. The fact that they exist at all in your community reinforces an "us vs. them" mentality that runs counter to the entire point of a guild: working together to have fun and achieve goals.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.