There's an old adage in sports that's often bandied about whenever someone gets confused about their role on the team: "Players play, coaches coach." It doesn't really work for us ("Officers office, members . . . memb"?). However, it's true that officers are officers and members are members. Members can slack, but officers have to maintain, support, and improve their guild. This week's e-mail comes from a guild leader who's tried everything (short of giant hammers) to motivate her lazy officers, but to no avail, and she's at the end of her rope.
I'm a co-GM of a mid-sized, fairly stable guild that has been remarkably stable and solid over the years. We have a solid group of core members who are active, we've progressed steadily through the WoW raiding content, and we have an active social calendar as well. As far as the day-to-day business and guild harmony go, from where the members sit -- things are really great.
The problem is, our officers have been getting less and less responsive in taking leadership, and because of it, most of the work seems to be falling more and more on myself and my co-leader. And as more and more of the work falls on us, and the staff we delegated to help us with it doesn't give us that help, we are burning out badly.
[. . .] I haven't heard a peep of unhappiness or discontent that leads me to think the officers stopped being involved because they had a falling out with the leadership, or don't agree with something in the guild itself. [. . .]
I know there are other people in the guild who have expressed interest in being an officer and who have offered to take over some of the work that isn't getting done, but since the problem is officers being present but not doing their jobs (rather than leaving WoW or the guild, or becoming inactive), I don't want to just promote a bunch of additional officers. I think we'd wind up horribly top-heavy, plus it could lead to resentment down the road as the new officers see how hard they're working and others doing next to nothing. That said, I fear if I demote any of the existing officers -- many of whom I consider good, long-term friends I've played with for years -- there will be drama and anger, as well.
[. . .] I'm really stumped on how to handle this. I know in a professional setting, if you have an employee you hired for a job and they stop doing the job, you have a disciplinary meeting with them. But volunteers are different, and ultimately any game "job" is a volunteer position. [. . .] I have tried officer meetings, to discuss who is doing what and ask if the officers are still happy with their roles or want to move around or try something new. [. . .]
I have examined this from every angle, and I'm just completely stumped. [. . .] Please help!
This e-mail really struck me when I received it because it sounded a lot like my own situation over the past year and a half. I'll tell you how I failed to fix it with one strategy and then tried something different that seems to be working much better -- so far.
When I found myself in this situation about a year ago, many of our officers had been officers for more than two years. That is a long time for a volunteer position, as you call it. And it can be difficult for some to find the motivation after all that time to still do all the little things that a guild needs to function at a high level. Sometimes you just get lazy. It happens to the best of us.
All of the major things, like scheduling and leading raids, handling applications, and so on, got taken care of by a select few. Most of the officers weren't really contributing much to the day-to-day operations. They are all great people, and they carried themselves well. They were friendly, helpful, and generous. But there were a lot of smaller duties, like managing the guild bank, orienting new recruits, and the like, that were slowly falling by the wayside.
At the time, my plan was this: I just divided up all the jobs and assigned them to the officers I felt were most appropriate for each job. I gave them the opportunity to agree to do the job or to trade with someone else if they were willing to switch. Everyone agreed to the jobs I assigned. Mission accomplished, I figured.
But without any followup on my end, everything just sort of slipped right back to the way it was. A few of us were doing what we deemed essential and everything else went mostly neglected. My officers were still great people, but they weren't really carrying out the tasks I had assigned.
I thought it must have been a malaise for the game. God knows many of us were all bored out of our minds with WoW throughout most of 2008. I hoped that it would turn around when Wrath launched. One of my officers got fed up with it just prior to the expansion and posted in our forum, urging people to do more. People agreed with him, but the status quo prevailed.
So at the turn of the New Year, I started thinking about how I could change the situation. We had an entrenched leadership, enjoying all the privileges of their status but with virtually no accountability. So I took a page from the corporate world. I instituted annual officer self-evaluations.
I work in the corporate world myself, and I hate filling out an evaluation. The whole process is awkward and artificial. However, I do work very hard at my job and it's nice to be able to put that in writing and to qualify it with ample evidence. If I didn't, it would at least remind me that I hadn't really done much that year. I was hoping my officers would have a similar experience.
So I asked all of them, in our private officers' forum, to post about two things: (1) what they had accomplished in 2008 and (2) what they would like to accomplish in 2009. I made a list of duties that I would like to see get done on a regular basis, but I also left open the option to come up with your own job.
I was a bit nervous about it, because if I got no responses, or very few, then I would have been out of ideas (aside from demoting everyone who wasn't pitching in and starting over). But fortunately the officers who had been actively supporting the guild were quick to post, which makes sense, and that got the ball rolling.
At that point, the ones who hadn't been as active had a choice: they could either admit that they hadn't done much in 2008, but come up with a plan for what they would like to do in 2009, or they could step down. Some opted for the former; some opted for the latter.
It was also a great opportunity for hard-working but burned-out officers to herald their efforts over the past year and then gracefully step down.
I anticipated that some might choose not to continue. So I invited other high-ranking members who weren't yet officers to post the same thing in a bid to be promoted. We raised two new officers this way to replace the ones who didn't want to continue.
Because I left it up to each officer to make this choice for herself, the entire process was completely drama-free.
Of course, the question remains: will the new and remaining officers follow through with what they decided to focus on this year? Here's the brilliant part. Everyone knows now that another round of evaluations is coming in January 2010. They'll think about that when they start letting things slide. They'll think about what they're going to post when the time comes, and whether it's really worth it to be an officer when you have to admit to your peers, two years in a row, that you haven't done much of anything substantial to help the guild.
It's too early to tell, but maybe they'll follow through this time around. If not -- and I told them this directly -- I will find someone who will! At some point you or I may have to be the jerk who fired somebody. That can be really difficult when it's someone you know well. And yes, there may be drama and hurt feelings. But when push comes to shove, they decided to stop being officers long before you stepped in to take the rank away. Ultimately, it's up to each of them whether they keep the position or not.