In the emails that I've been receiving lately, I've noticed a disturbing trend: Many guild leaders are finding themselves burned out right now. On the surface, it doesn't make much sense. After all, the expansion is only a few months old. Many guilds are still progressing through tier 11, earning new perks every week, and looking forward to all the great new content that future patches will bring. How can so many guild leaders already be burned out?
A few factors are feeding this trend. The first is the insanely long gap between the release of Icecrown Citadel in patch 3.3 and Cataclysm. The Ruby Sanctum was hardly any help to keep raiders interested during this time. Most of the guild leaders who survived that period did so by constant recruiting, merging with other guilds, or working diligently to keep players interested in raiding; all of these are high-stress situations.
Then Cataclysm released, and rather than breathing a sigh of relief, these guild leaders now had a whole new ball game to contend with. They have had to ensure their raiders or PvPers were prepared for endgame content in which the gear curve was suddenly much steeper than it had been since the early days of The Burning Crusade. Raiding guilds have had to make tough choices about the size of the raids they would coordinate and how they would deal with gear in the new loot paradigm. Once those guilds made it into raid zones, they found themselves up against bosses much tougher than those in Wrath's first tier and completely unfamiliar to most players -- unlike those in the endless Icecrown runs we knew by heart.
To add to the trouble, most classes underwent massive change in this expansion. DPSers were still learning the new, more RNG-based "rotations." Tanks were still learning how to cope with reduced AOE threat and the pitfalls of Vengeance. Healers had it worst of all, transitioning from a spamfest style of healing in which one global could mean a player death to a style in which careful spell selection and mana conservation became the keys to success.
All of these changes led to an environment bursting with the potential for drama. Slow progression, arguments about raid size and raid slots, loot issues, conflict over which bosses to tackle, players who quit the game because they didn't like their class anymore or because Cataclysm felt too "same old" for them -- any one of these problems leads to a heavy amount of stress on guild leadership. Many guild leaders have been facing several of these issues at once.
Looking at it in this light, it's no wonder so many are having a tough time right now.
It's okay to be burned out
If you're feeling overwhelmed or unmotivated at this point in the game, don't feel guilty. It's a natural outcome for many people in your situation. Talk to your officers about it. Talk to your guild members. Often times, all it takes is the ability to vent about it and you'll feel better. It's not always a given, but sometimes when players see an officer in this situation, they volunteer to take some of the burdens away from that player to give him or her some time to recover. It's important to give your guild members this opportunity to help you before you reach the point that you don't want to log in anymore.
How you feel isn't what matters most in this situation. How you deal with it is far more important.
What's troubling to me about this current wave of burnout is the way that many officers are managing it. Last week we saw an example: a guild leader who had been at it since the days of the original release. It's not surprising that someone who has been playing for so long would feel the urge to move on. Even though he probably should have reached out for help sooner, at least he's going about his departure the right way -- he's exploring options for how to preserve the guild in the wake of his decision.
Deal with it the right way
Many of the emails that I've been receiving lately contain examples of the wrong way to act when you're feeling burned out. I've heard about guild leaders who roll secret toons on other servers, join other guilds with their mains for better raid progression, or just stop logging in altogether. I'm not condemning their actions. All of these things are acceptable if you find them necessary for your sanity or your enjoyment of the game -- but you must stop being the guild leader.
The worst thing you can do is to take such an action without talking to anyone in the guild about it. The guild will flounder for weeks before people realize that a new leader is necessary, and by then it could be too late. If you care about the community you've built and led, you must tell people what your intentions are.
If you want to raid with another guild, for example, it's going to be a hard truth to convey. However, you aren't doing anyone in your own guild any favors by trying to have it both ways and retaining your position. Fold up your guild, turn it over to someone else, or at the very least, explain what's happening and let the remaining members sort it out. It's far better than the endless resentment you'll incur -- and drama you'll inspire -- as the leader of a guild you don't even want to raid with.
When you talk about your plan, you don't have to have all the answers. You can say it's how you feel right now and you don't know what you'll want to do in a week or a month. That, again, is natural.
As a result of your decision, you may find blame, anger, disbelief, or desperation aimed at you. Have the guts to deal with it. Don't take the coward's way out and leave everyone to wonder what the heck you're up to. You'll undermine all the respect you've earned, and you'll probably burn away any possible bridge to return to the guild if you do eventually want to come back.
The burnout isn't the shameful part, and you should never be ashamed to admit those feelings. The shameful part is not handling it decently, by skulking away or by refusing to give up your position. If you must do something drastic to manage your burnout, then resign with dignity and give your guild a chance to succeed without you.
Recently, Officers' Quarters has examined how strong new leadership can create a guild turnaround, the pitfalls of promising more than you can deliver, and lessons learned from Scott's own guild demise. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.