Guild Chat: Dealing with one bad egg in an MMO guild – without breaking the others
Welcome along to another edition of Guild Chat, the column through which we all band together to help a reader in need solve their guild-related dilemma. This time, reader Cee is wondering how best to handle one person who doesn’t seem to settle into the rank and file of his guild without ruining the solid working dynamic with the offending party’s friends. Cee feels that almost everyone else in the guild finds this person funny and friendly, but after a couple of complaints and uncomfortable exchanges, Cee doesn’t feel the same. The member came into the guild as a part of a group of friends during the guild’s initial recruitment phase, and although this member was initially affable with Cee and his officers and slotted in well, there has been growing friction between a small group in the guild because of more raucous behaviour.
Read Cee’s full submission below along with my take on the problem, and don’t forget to leave your thoughts on the matter in the comments below.
I have a problem with a member of the guild I founded but it won’t be easily solved due to their ties to others in the guild. This member joined us when we started with a group of friends that I knew from another game and there was no issue at all back then. They seemed like a good fit and seemed to get along well with everyone. Lately this member has been abrasive, loud, and opinionated though and I cannot stand it. They joke around constantly and make stupid ignorant comments all the time and most people think that this is hilarious. Unfortunately not everyone does and some people are starting to get tired of the immature comments and general rudeness. This member is putting others off joining us on chat and is lewd in the guild chat but because they come as part of a package I can’t just give them a gkick and move on. Plus most people would think I’m being judgemental and it’d be seen as my fault. This behaviour is encouraging some others to weigh in with flippant coments and join in on the game too. What can I do?
It’s always tricky when one character dominates the guild environment and its dynamic then changes into something that you didn’t quite expect, Cee, so I do sympathise even if my advice is quite frank. I’ll give you some ideas for managing the behaviour, but I’ll also explain why you might not want to swing your banhammer quite so soon. While one player dominating the guild environment shouldn’t be encouraged, your members do need the space to be individuals with distinct personalities too: I want to help you balance the strongest personality so it isn’t entirely crushed while it’s also tamed enough to let everyone else flourish.
Balancing personalities in a guild environment
I’ve alluded to your need to foster an environment in which very diverse personalities can flourish, but this is much easier said than done. I’m not sure if you’ve already had a look at some of the previous Guild Chat entries, but this is one of the most common issues many guilds face at some time during the course of their life. One thing to keep in mind going forward is that you should have a clearly established thread of commonality that bonds your guild together: I urge guilds to write this down in their guild message or on any guild websites or social media pages you use. If you have a clear common goal and everyone is on the same page, refocusing in times of friction becomes much easier.
I like to have a guild charter that outlines behaviour expectations within my guilds: This makes it much easier to deal with the behaviour of many people in a fair, consistent way. Try to define what precisely in the offender’s behaviour is making you uncomfortable and compare this to any rules you have, or if you don’t have a guild charter, use the unwanted behaviours alongside the positive interactions you wish to encourage to form your rules. Remember that everyone has different handles on what behaviours are acceptable and unacceptable, so if you make your rules too restrictive you will experience some fallout and it could perhaps affect member retention. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you’d rather a smaller circle that meets a more stringent standard of behaviour or if you can put up with some of the more annoying behaviours that aren’t outright offensive.
Gauging the scale of the problem
I want you to seriously consider the scale of the problem as it impacts the guild as a whole rather than you as an individual. As much as the behaviours might prove irksome to you, it seems as though the majority of your guildmates disagree, which is why you are hesitant to act. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we encounter characters that simply grate on our nerves: If, after some reflection, you feel that this is the case with you and this person, it might be best to limit your exposure to one another in order to minimise the impact that personality clash has on the guild. Swap activity groups around, let other guild officers take the lead in managing this person and perhaps even divide your voice chat into various rooms so that the sort of banter this member enjoys is contained to a set room you can choose not to stay in. It’s best to create spaces for each of you to relax and enjoy your leisure time.
If the problem goes beyond the personal scale and you truly feel that this behaviour impacts in a negative way on your guild, you should ensure that your guild rules make clear what behaviours are unwanted specifically so you can refer back to those rules if you need to challenge this person. This will help you to remove any personal elements and deal with the problem without being accused of unfairness or being a killjoy. I’m concerned that if you have nothing to refer back to then those who do enjoy these antics will respond quite negatively to you calming down the behaviour, which will only make the environment even more hostile to you and those who find this problematic.
There will be a range of behaviours that are beyond the realm of what’s acceptable in the vast majority of guilds and as a leader, you are totally within your rights to stamp these out and use the game’s own rules on such behaviour to help where relevant. You do not have to accept and “-ist” remarks or jokes in the name of banter and I don’t want you to feel as though I’m telling you anything should go in the guild you operate. If this applies, kicking the member could be of a long-term benefit even if you do lose other members who find this person funny. Some behaviours are simply irritating or immature, such as interrupting with juvenile jokes, spamming memes, or making light of serious topics affecting other guildmates. While these behaviours might annoy you, they are usually not malicious in intent and lightly pointing out that it isn’t the right time to share that story or say that joke is more than sufficient in response.
Dealing with infractions fairly
If you do establish new rules in the wake of this member’s behaviour, you’ll need to remember that they apply to all guild members and cannot be selectively exercised only against the member that you’re having trouble with. Letting someone you find more likeable away with breaking the rules while jumping on this specific member at every infraction will cause more harm than good: Ensure that you are willing to enforce all rules you put in place. Aside from even enforcement, you’ll also need to not be beyond reproach yourself: You’ll need to emulate the behaviours you expect in your guild at all times and be ready to apologise for the rare times when you fall short of the mark.
I always suggest a simple warning system that is fact-based and doesn’t revolve around loaded statements and hearsay. If you or another officer witnesses or has evidence of wrongdoing, your first step is to write to the member to explain the infraction, sending along evidence or details of when it happened, while pointing the member to the broken rule. Explain that this can’t happen again for the smooth running of the guild but that no harm was done in this first instance and move along. Make a note of this interaction somewhere that all officers can see it but members cannot in case of future infractions: This means you can refer back and say that the member has been warned before should they break the rule again. A three-strikes policy works for many guilds: Offer an initial warning, a final warning that makes clear that the behaviour can result in a guild kick if it happens again, and then follow through on a third instance.
One bad egg can spoil the fun for everyone even when it isn’t their intention to, so I hope that establishing some ground rules and following through is enough to nip this problem in the bud. If not, follow through with that kick for the good of the rest of the guild: If you allow ill-feeling to fester, you could be looking at a much more painful guild split anyway. Good luck!
What do you think? Have you dealt with a similar issue of one member spoiling the atmosphere for others, and if so, how did you handle it? Let Cee know in the comments below.
Many thanks to Cee for this submission. If you want to have your guild issue considered for Guild Chat, email me a summary.