I can't take credit for the column name -- it was a turn of phrase used by the writer of this week's reader e-mail. It's a fitting expression, as you'll see. He wonders just how to get people to care again when a guild is faltering.
Thank you for this column, hopefully you and the comment crowd can help me. Over the last few days I've had to watch my beloved guild start to unravel. Our problem is, apart from a few select officers and members, we have too many Neros, content to fiddle as our guild burns, and Zeros, members who don't really contribute anything but a raid spot. Nobody seems to care enough to even sign up for our website. We have had trouble with our loot system, suicide kings, and raid scheduling, and it has caused some key members to seek other guilding opportunities.
My questions boil down to frustration at what seems to be a a guild that is nothing more than the sum of its parts. Our GM has floated the idea of taking the core and uprooting for greener pastures, but I am not alone in O chat when I express my desire to see the guild survive. I have a few questions to that end. How successful would a bad-ectomy be, that is a surgical removal of the members who don't seem to have the same goals in mind as the officers, or barring that, what are some ways to collect feedback from the members on the state of the guild? Or the biggest question of all, How do I get guild members to care as much about the guild's progression as they do for that of their characters?
Spencer, it's interesting that you use the word "bad-ectomy." It tells me that you believe your guild has a disease that requires a cure -- a disease caused by bad players. You're saying that the lack of caring, the gquits, and other ailments are all symptoms of this disease. But if the bad players are the disease, the officers are the immune system. That means you're responsible for them. You're responsible for inviting them into the guild. You're responsible for letting them ruin the experience for other players. You're responsible for allowing them to raid without pushing them to improve.
Sure, you could remove them like a cancer. However, let's walk down that road a bit. How would you announce such a decision? How would you carry it out? Face to face by telling them, "You suck, please leave"? Gkicks in the middle of the night? Imagine the drama and upheaval either way.
The officers are going to look like jerks no matter how you decide to do this. Not everyone you kick is going to be an outcast, either. You might find that some of your better players stand behind their less-skilled friends and quit, too. Guilds can be a tangled web of relationships. Plucking some threads may unravel everything.
After this "surgery," some of your remaining members may applaud you, but some may wonder if they're next. You've set a precedent you can't take back: perform well in raids or get booted. That's about as hardcore as you can get. Are you willing to lead a guild like that? You might have more successful raids after such an action, but will people have more fun -- or will they worry so much about being the person who causes a wipe that they're too stressed to enjoy themselves? It's a solution with far-reaching consequences.
The other solution your officers are considering is to disband or abandon the guild and start fresh. This decision might be a solution to your problems. Again, it will be a drama-fest for a while, but it could be worth it. But first you should ask yourselves how sure you are about your core players. There seems to be some disagreement about this decision. Are you certain everyone you need in the new guild will follow? It's a risky way to go. You'll certainly alienate everyone you left behind. In fact, you'll probably have to switch servers if you do this or else the bad blood will never really go away.
In my opinion, the best way to save your guild is to find out which members actually care and then work with them to make the guild well again. Talk to these members to find out what they like and don't like about the guild. Ask for suggestions on how to improve it. Talk to your ex-members, too. Try to get an honest reason for why they quit.
Part of getting your members to care is showing them that the officers care. Make a post on your website asking what your members would like to change about the guild. If a member posts, no matter how negative they might be, they're proving they care just by posting, so take that into consideration.
You mentioned that you've had trouble getting people to sign up for the website. The best cure for that is giving them a chance to vent to the officers or to share their opinions about the guild. Announce this post requesting feedback and I can practically guarantee you'll see more people on the site.
After all of your research, if you find out that you need to revamp your loot system or your raiding policies, then do it. If something else turns out to be the issue, fix it. If you need suggestions or manpower, ask the members who identified these problems to help you fix them.
If it all comes back, as you theorize, to your bad players, then you could reconsider the above situations. Or you can offer incentives for those players to improve and the means to do so. Bad players may seem like a disease, but believe it or not they can be a resource. With a little bit of help and guidance, you might be surprised at how quickly they can learn to step up their game. I've seen it happen over and over again.
Most bad players aren't inherently, irrevocably bad. Most are bad because they don't know that what they're doing is subpar. They haven't taken the time to research the best practices for their spec. They may not even know that they can! Also, no one has sat them down and coached them.
As I said above, you are responsible for these bad players in one way or another. Before you take the drastic step of kicking them all out, give them a chance to learn. Now, a bad player can only improve if they want to improve. You can't force someone to learn. With Ulduar releasing soon, it's the perfect time to ask them to try. Make it clear that players who underperform and who haven't shown any effort to do better at their role won't see the inside of Ulduar.
Use class leaders or officers as coaches. Point out class-specific resources on the Web, like this very site. Use tools like Recount or WoW Web Stats to evaluate players in your current runs. Keep track of who is improving and praise them.
A member who refuses to try isn't worth your time. You don't have to kick them. Just don't take them to raids and make it very clear why. The reason shouldn't be that they aren't very good. The reason should be that they're not trying their hardest to play well. It's a world of difference. Even these players are helpful to your cause -- they serve as an example to others about what happens when you don't care.
If you have to look outside the guild to fill slots with hard-working raiders, then do it. More importantly, tell your members that you'll do it. When Ulduar goes live, PUG players will be coming out of the woodwork for a shot at the juicy loot inside. You'll have your pick of the litter. If you have to resort to PUGs, you might even recruit a few good players along the way.
In my opinion, it's much easier to care about a guild where everyone who raids is trying their hardest, regardless of their skill level.