If I had a nickel for the number of times I've had to deal with guild member issues, I could retire rich. Fortunately, it's something that's gotten better over the years, which I'd like to think is a result of a better screening process and a general mellowing among the players who hang around year after year. But in every discussion I would have with officers about guild member problems, one officer would invariably end up with the curt suggestion, "Boot 'em!" And as tempting as it might be for me to do that, I never ended up doing it, with only one or two exceptions. First off, it's easy for someone to say it, but it's not quite as easy if you're the one who actually has to do it. It reminded me of when I used to coach and had to make roster cuts. Just about every single kid who tried out genuinely wanted to be on the team, and the same holds true for your guild. Telling someone he can't be a part of that is difficult, and even with the relative anonymity of the internet, it's not easy to tell someone to move on.
The other problem is that booting someone is not necessarily the best solution. An old friend of mine used to say, "If we kick out all the unhappy people, the only ones left will be happy people." While that was true, and that might be fine for a small guild or casual guild, it doesn't work so well with a more progression-minded guild. Even though raiding doesn't require the brute force numbers that it used to (is a 10- or 12-man force even a raid really?), it still means a give and take and a careful balancing of personalities and playstyles. Any time your guild faces the puzzles and challenges of the game's content, you're bound to have as many different opinions as you do players on the roster, which can result in clashes and drama. Knowing which drama is toxic and which is part of guild life is crucial because one is fixable and the other is not.
Just one more chance...
I haven't come across this often, but every now and then you'll end up with a serial offender on your roster. And this one is tricky because one minute he's the nicest guy on the planet, and the next he's spewing hate in guild chat, flaking out and dropping from groups with no warning, arguing with strangers in pick-up groups, and so on. By the time you hear of it and follow up with him, he's back to Mr. Nice Guy, and that's usually because of one of two scenarios. One is that he's a louse who thinks he can get away with things by saying sorry and charming his way out of trouble. The other, which is more difficult to handle, is that the person has been using either drugs or alcohol. The first case is simple to handle because while it's up to you how many chances (if any) you want to give, eventually that person will probably reach the limit and be given the boot. The second is not so easy, but when making a decision on whether to kick or not, you have to keep in mind the guild overall and how it affects everyone else on the roster. Sometimes even if the person isn't a bad guy, his habits are so destructive that the only choice you have is to make the break.
Before booting someone, it's important to make sure you've exhausted all options of making it work. And it's equally important to remember that not everyone will get along with each other. So you might detest Sally LousyCaster for her weak spell casting, annoying stories, or irritating voice, but your close friend Jessie RogueFace might be best friends with her. There's a complex web of relationships that tends to spring up in guilds, and as I've told guildies before, we don't all have to sing Kumbaya and eat Thanksgiving dinner together, but we do need to be respectful and polite. Sally LousyCaster might not be on your top 10 list of people to group with, but if she's on others' lists, it's worth reconsidering the g-kick. Booting her from the guild might make you and a few others happy, but you risk a situation in which you end up with several additional guildies unhappy with you as a result, and the possibility of even more drama down the road.
When to boot
There's no clear-cut answer on when the g-kick is the right thing to do, but there are a couple of general rules that guildies should just never break, rules so serious that breaking one is grounds for removal. The obvious one is behavior that detracts from others' enjoyment of the game, and that includes other players who aren't necessarily in the guild. If a member is in a PUG and ninja-loots everything or griefs other players on the server, she'd have to go. Similarly, if someone continues to be disruptive in guild chat even after being asked to tone it down, that would be grounds for removal. To go back to the example of Sally LousyCaster: If Sally's grouped with friends and they're OK with her going AFK every five minutes to check the crockpot, that's one thing. But if she's on a raid and doing that, it's a completely different situation because the expectations are different and she's detracting from the raid's enjoyment by not contributing and pulling her weight.
The other area that I consider grounds for removal is how the person deals with things if he's unhappy with something in the guild. One of my coaches used to tell us that there were two ways of dealing with something if we were unhappy: suck it up or talk to a coach. The third option, which would be to complain to teammates and try to gain their sympathy, was not acceptable. I tried to make it clear to guildmates that those were their options as well, and that while I might not always agree with their complaint, I'd hear them out and not just pay lip service to their concerns. But if I found out that they were going behind my back to other members or out of guild, that was a line that really can't be crossed. We've discussed ways for guild leaders to handle member complaints and cliques in a previous column
, but when a member goes off to complain to other players rather than to someone in a leadership position, what he's telling you is that he's probably more interested in stirring up trouble and turning it into a crusade than actually solving the issue.
Overall, a lot of this can be solved by carefully screening potential members
before inviting them to the guild. But no screening process is foolproof, and you'll inevitably have a situation when you might have someone suggest, "Boot 'em!" And while that might be your only option, it's not an enviable task, and hopefully you'll use it as a last result. Removing someone from the guild is a pretty serious step, and chances are not everyone on the roster will be happy about it. Use it as prudently as possible -- if you get too comfortable kicking people out of the guild, you risk the trust of your members, and you run the risk of creating additional drama as a result.
Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.