Using my patent pending way-back machine, I want us all to travel back in time to November 2009 when Michael released this article dealing with how to terminate a raid member from your team. All of the information and advice in that column are still very relevant to this day; however, there is a small issue that Mr. Gray did not address at that time. I am, of course, talking about what to do when you have a raid member you wish to terminate, but feel that your guild is currently not capable of handling the loss.
It's the end of an expansion once again, and the same problems that plagued guilds during the months before The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King are hitting us all now. Raiding guilds by the dozen are finding their member rosters slowly trickling away. As Cataclysm draws ever nearer, many players are losing their interest in the raiding scene – at least temporarily. Recruitment is down across the board, and even some of the high-end guilds are having difficulties finding replacement raiders this late in the game. In such a system as this, it is very easy for any raiding guild to dissolve into anarchy. There isn't going to be another raiding tier released, there won't be another year's worth of content to explore and players are just generally losing interest in raiding.
At such a time, it can be very difficult for a raid leader to make some of the hard choices that are required of him. Removing a player from a guild is never an easy task, even in the best of times, so it poses an even larger conundrum for a guild that is already struggling. When you are in a guild that only has 27 or so raiders, can you really afford to lose another player? Are you really in a state where kicking people for the things that you would normally kick them for actually benefits the guild as a whole? In my opinion, the answer is unequivocally "yes."
Why you should continue business as usual
For a guild leader, it can be very difficult justifying the removal of a player from your guild when you are already struggling to get a full raid together on standard nights. However, no matter what state your guild is currently in, you must hold fast to the rules that you have in place. With effort, things will always get better, but allowing a wound within the guild to sit and fester without treating it is only going to lead to a massive infection -- an infection that can prove deadly.
Chances are, if you are running a guild that has certain performance standards, then you aren't the only one who notices when people are not holding up to the level that they are supposed to. Being a GM does not make you omnipresent; if you can see performance issues in a player, then you better believe that your other guild members notice it as well. When you are in a guild that takes their raiding seriously, then allowing a player who isn't up to par to remain in the guild sends a very clear signal to the rest of your raiders. It clearly states that the rules aren't important, that no matter how badly they play, no matter how poorly they do, they are not going to lose their precious raid slot. When you have multiple players who are failing to meet the guild's requirements for one reason or another, it is going to frustrate the rest of your raiding team, and frustrated raiders have a tendency to look for other options.
It may seem as though you are not making the best choice for your raiders in the short term, and some players may express frustration at losing members when you are already short, but in the long term, this really is the best option to take. Again, failure to enforce the rules will only show your raiders that the rules don't matter. It may not cause any problems for you now, but down the road, it can become a very difficult issue. It becomes hard to justify removing a raider for poor performance down the road when the guild is in a better state if you failed to enforce the policy in the past.
As harsh as following the letter of the law may sound, it is honestly for the best for your guild. That isn't to say that there aren't loopholes that you can exploit. When you are caught between a rock and hard place such as this, there is an alternative that you can follow that is the best of both worlds.
First and foremost, talk to the raider in question. Be fair, honest and firm. Tell him the issues that you are having with him, and explain quite clearly the consequences (which feels like a terrible word in this situation) of those issues. Then offer an alternate solution.
Instead of outright removal of the player, offer him a probationary spot in your raids. This slot is not a permanent free pass, and you should be clear to let him know that. Tell him that you are happy to have him along to fill in for missing raiders, but that his spot is no longer guaranteed and that he will not be prioritized above any other raider in the guild.
On the surface, this may seem like a cruel option to the player in question. You are essentially telling him that his raiding position within your guild has been terminated, yet you are going to continue to keep him around. At times, it can feel like you are abusing the player just to fulfill your own needs. By choosing this option, both of you need to realize that this is not the case. Usually, when it comes to performance issues, the player with the problem isn't a horrible person. Sometimes he is, and in that case, you probably just want to remove him and get it over with. However, the alternate solution leaves you an option for those cases when your raiding team really does like the other player, who just happens to not be able to keep pace with the rest of the group.
You should be clear that this isn't a punishment to the player, it is a second chance. If the player manages to bring his performance up to par, then he can be returned to the previous full raider status. Let him know that, even once things start going well and you have a full set of raiders, he is free to remain in the guild and raid with you whenever there is an open slot.
It can be hard for many players to hear this, so don't expect everyone to take to the offer kindly. It is just about as likely that the player will quit on the spot as it is that he will accept your offer, but it helps let him know that you have nothing against them as a person, which is very important. Further, many players need this form of tough love. Some people "just don't get it," as the saying goes, and they need to see the reality of the circumstances before it all actually clicks. Putting them on this probationary status may just be the kick in the pants that they need to get their junk together.
Fleshing out the raid
You may be all well and good with handling the players that you want to get rid of, but how does this help you with the players that you want to keep? If you are constantly booting out members when you are already falling short of your raiding numbers, how do you keep your current members raiding?
The simplest answer is to pug. Never, ever feel that you are too important to pug, and make sure that your guild understands this as well. No one is above pugging -- no one. In all honesty, recruitment is nothing more than pugging, in a sense. You are taking a random player who you've probably never played with before. All they have done is responded to your call of LFM, and you're inviting them into the raid. Pugging is essentially the same thing as recruiting; the only difference is that the players you pick up may or may not actually be looking to join your guild. That's okay, though.
Pugging players has a negative connotation associated with it, when it honestly shouldn't. There is nothing wrong with PUG players, and you may find yourself presently surprised by what you pick up. Not every player you meet is going to be sunshine and rainbows; there will be a mix of good and bad. The solution is to just roll with the punches. Keep track of the good players, even if they don't have much interest in joining your guild, just as you keep track of the bad players that you want to avoid inviting back.
A good player who doesn't particularly want to join your guild isn't a terrible thing. You may find that it works out perfectly fine. People play this game for a variety of different reasons, and people join guilds for the same number. I have consistently raided with many players outside of my guild who are exceptional, but they had no interest in joining with us. They might be on, ready and eager to go for each and every raid we put together, but they happen to be a guild with family or friends and they don't want to leave them. Just because a player doesn't want to join your guild exclusively doesn't make him useless to you. If he can be on, ready and willing to attend every raid you have -- plus be a great player -- does it really matter if he shares the same guild tag as you?
Pugging is also a great way to find new recruits. Many players aren't very savvy about finding which guilds are looking for what members, or maybe they're shy about putting in applications where they feel they might be rejected. Perhaps they don't even realize that they are in need of a raiding guild. Many players define themselves as being casual, so they may think that getting raids outside of the occasional PUG is beyond them. Be there to prove them wrong. Show them that they can still be a casual player yet a raider as well.
Removing players is never easy, especially when your guild is already hurting for members. However, sticking to whatever raiding guidelines that you've set in place is imperative. Never be afraid that kicking a player will be the downfall of your guild. Even if you are lacking a few players to flesh out a full raiding team, don't feel you're out of luck. Pugging is always an option and isn't nearly as bad as people make it out to be.
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