Guild Chat: What to do when your MMO guild is close to imploding
Welcome along to Guild Chat, the column through which the Massively commenters can join forces to help solve the guild dilemmas of fellow readers. This time, I have a sad submission from Louise, a guild officer who is at present in the middle of the worst kind of guild wars. She explains that a personal bust-up has been festering within her guild’s ranks between the guild leader and another officer, caused by an inconsequential fallout that she doesn’t know the full details of. The dispute has spilt out to the wider roster as the pair snipe at each other and manoeuvre behind the scenes to undermine the other, which is making members leave the guild, mute chat, and take sides in the row. Now Louise faces a dilemma: How can she resolve this fallout and come away with a still-functioning, harmonious guild at the other end? Read on for Louise’s full submission and my response, and don’t forget to share your advice in the comments below.
I’m caught in the middle of a guild mess I can’t resolve myself and was wondering your thoughts. My guild leader and another officer have had a massive argument over something a couple weeks back. (I don’t really care to share the details because it is so dumb and I wasn’t there for the row, but it has nothing to do with the game anyway.) This has grown from a tiny dispute to a huge blowout, it’s ruining the guild, everyone knows about the row and is taking sides, and I’m the only one in charge with any sense. The two can’t be online at the same time and run the same runs, only at opposite times. Most go with the leader but many are now running with the officer instead and our main groups are weaker for it. Now I don’t know what to do to fix things. Members are leaving and they don’t seem to care, but the guild worked really well before this stupidness and I just want it to go back to how it was.
Oh wow, Lousie! It seems as though you have quite the situation on your hands, but fear not: This is totally fixable, providing you’re willing to put in some work beginning damage control and talking sense into the leader and officer in question after such petty antics. I think both parties need a healthy dose of reality to regain perspective: Game time is supposed to be enjoyable, and their actions are affecting the wider guild. I’ll outline my advice for aiding the pair and the wider roster while this row either runs its course or your guild’s leadership decides how to move on. Of course, always remember that if things become too challenging at any point, you are free to walk away and find a new happier home within your chosen MMO.
Like all arguments, this one will end eventually: The main uncertainty right now lies in how the row will be put to bed and what effect that will have on your guild roster. It seems as though you have managed to remain neutral and distanced from the row thus far, so you’re in an excellent position to mediate and try to bring about some sort of resolution here. It’s difficult to approach a guild leader this way — especially if the character in question is volatile enough to have a weeks-long dispute with another officer over an inconsequential difference in opinion — but I do have some ideas.
Firstly, I believe it is time to point out the fallout that’s happening within the guild ranks to the guild leader: It happens so often that people in conflict cannot see what’s happening beyond their own drama, so he or she may not have noticed what has happened. Arrange a time to check in with your leader and give him or her the reality of what’s happening in the guild, pointing out that the sensible splitting of the officer and leader is in effect splitting the roster too. Point out that something has to give and drop names of those who have left or commented on the tension: Being direct by providing examples is the best tool in your arsenal when dealing with an emotive topic.
Ultimately, you need assurances from the leader that this friction will end before the guild implodes in on itself, so put it to him or her that you need an outcome that will end the internal drama. The two options as I see it are either sincere apologies happening and the pair making up or your leader and fellow officer deciding that their differences are irreconcilable. What makes this scenario interesting to me is that the guild leader is involved in the dispute but hasn’t flexed the banhammer: If he or she has not removed the officer, something tells me that the person in question feels that the relationship can be repaired once one or both parties have calmed down. Try being candid and asking what would make the rift right again, pointing out how relatively trivial the original row was and the fact that the leadership worked well beforehand.
I’m unsure about whether you are the only other leader remaining who isn’t directly involved in the dispute, so my advice is going to look at that as the worst-case scenario. If you do happen to have leadership help, take the lead in uniting the other officers under a neutral banner and get everyone on the same page with how best to discuss the fallout with your fellow guildmates. No matter how the dispute resolves itself, in a guild of any size you’ll always find a minority of people who will hang on to ill feeling for one reason or another, and you might well have to quash some drama-seeking characters’ accounts of events that add fuel to the fire along the way.
The most important thing you can do while the officer and leader work out their differences is preventing the dispute from being perpetuated by further whispers of malcontent and third-party additions that might stoke the row all over again. Shut down discussions of the fallout within guild chat decisively but without getting too sharp with your members: If you are worried enough about the drama to write in, chances are your members are worried too. Use neutral phrasing such as “Let’s give them time to work it out without us weighing in on the matter” at first and save harsher shut-downs for the persistent gossips.
You might have members who are not happy to let matters lie, so expect that your downplaying of events might elicit some probing PMs or word getting back to either party that you’re shutting down their public supporters. This is where it is important to tell both parties what you’re doing and to be consistent in how you apply this action: If you silence those who speak against one party and not the other, even accidentally, the difference will be noted by those who are looking for ammunition. Don’t get into details via PM and remember that everything you type could be saved in a screenshot and sent to anyone without context to stoke fires. Hopefully, the lack of current fuel will prevent the leader and officer from re-engaging in the argument and finding more tenuous reasons to stay mad at each other because of he-said she-said antics.
The worst-case scenario here is that your leader decides that he or she simply cannot get along with the officer in question and the resultant guild-kick causes a roster fracture because the officer takes his or her followers with them, as was the case recently in a guild I’m a member of. Should this happen, members should be free to do whatever they decide to do next without either party getting vocal with them: Enforce a clean break and put in place repercussions for anyone who starts drama between the ex-members and the remaining roster. Don’t panic if this is the resolution for the fallout and remember that you are currently losing members to the drama anyway. Sometimes it’s best to just pull off that band-aid: This could be the making of a stronger, more cohesive guild.
Remember that herd mentality can kick in when people are part of a guild collective that’s going through some turbulence, so it might be the case where you need to stem the flow of people exiting the guild out as a knee-jerk reaction with some clever distraction. When a chunk of your roster falls away, it can seem to the remaining members that the guild is a sinking ship that they should abandon too if everyone else is. You’ll need to present the split as an opportunity for members to step up and become more involved, so keep the guild calendar full and the atmosphere positive by polling members for content suggestions or perhaps running a guild fun day or competition. Ensure that the leader is involved in this positivity: The guild members need to be able to trust that he or she is not just a volatile character who feeds off the drama and will spark another fall out eventually now that this one is over.
Over to you!
However you choose to move on, Louise, do remember that your gaming time is precious and that your happiness outweighs any guild loyalty guilt you’d feel about giving yourself some space from the scenario. While you feel as though you want to repair this guild right now, should it prove to be harder than you imagine or should the leader lash out at you too, my best advice is for you to walk. Check out my articles on solving officer conflicts to help you out: They’re fairly closely related and will have more advice for you.
What advice do you have for Louise? Have you helped to smooth over a leadership argument in your own guild? Let Louise know your thoughts in the comments below.
Many thanks to Louise for this submission. If you have a guild issue you’d like to have addressed on Guild Chat, email me for consideration.