The Guild Counsel: Dealing with the Backseat Driver

The Guild Counsel  Dealing with the Backseat Driver
Lots of MMOs these days have handy tutorials, pop-up tip windows, and highlighted marks to show you where to go and what to stab. Unfortunately, there are no advice windows that show up when you have to make a tough decision as a guild leader (although that would be a great addon!). Instead, leaders have to rely on past experience and a little bit of gut instinct and then hope for the best.

Of course, if you're faced with two paths, and you choose path A, you can pretty much guarantee that someone will voice his support for path B, and that can lead to no end of headaches and potential drama. Let's take a look this week at identifying and handling the "Backseat Driver."

Who is the Backseat Driver?

The first thing to consider is whether or not you actually have a backseat driver on your hands. Perception is everything, and sometimes guild leaders become overly sensitive to feedback and lump everyone into that backseat. My definition of a backseat driver is someone who doesn't participate in the decision-making process beforehand but is all too happy to second-guess you after the fact and usually does so without looking at all the factors and consequences that are involved.

By that definition, there are plenty of players who voice their opinions but aren't Backseat Drivers, and good guild leaders will avoid lumping everyone together. In fact, when it comes to major decisions, it's important to take some time to let members be heard and then use that feedback to determine a course of action. Even the best leaders can't get it right all the time, and chances are that members will see something that you might not have considered when choosing a path.

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you have to be the one to make the call all the time and that going with someone else's suggestion erodes your ability to lead. In fact, the opposite is true. If you don't look at it as an ego or power issue, and if you open things up for discussion, then members will feel as if their views are important, even if you don't always end up going with their suggestion in the end. You create an atmosphere in which everyone is in it for the team, and so people trust each other (and your final decision) because they know that every member wants what's best for the guild, even if they all have different ideas on how to accomplish that.

The Guild Counsel  Dealing with the Backseat Driver
Taking a backseat

The Backseat Driver is the complete opposite of the guild member who voices his feedback. He's not really interested in what's best for the guild; instead, he treats guild decisions like a game within a game, almost rooting against the team because that would prove he's right. But the real Backseat Driver just tosses out contrary opinions left and right, without any real understanding of the big picture, and since even a broken clock is right twice a day, chances are he'll get lucky here and there too. If you're taking a measured approach to decision-making, you'll greatly reduce the Backseat Driver's ability to say he was right and you're wrong. But of course, he ignores all the times he was wrong and is emboldened by the one or two times he got lucky. The result is a never-ending, antagonistic relationship between you and him and a complete disruption to the guild.

Under the bus

If you've identified a Backseat Driver in your guild, there really is no other option than to part ways. If you're a regular reader of this column, you'll know that I rarely believe that guild removal is the solution to problems, so I don't say this lightly. But if you've created a guild atmosphere that's team-driven and positive, that's no easy task, and one Backseat Driver can erase that in an instant. Backseat Drivers are toxic to a guild, and they're one of the few player-types that I don't believe can be changed, mainly because they don't care about the guild's success and in fact are happier when it fails. As they grow emboldened, they'll try to sway others to side with them, creating a fragmentation of the guild that could eventually destroy it. The irony is that Backseat Drivers might excel at undermining and destroying the guild, but they aren't that great when they find themselves in the driver's seat. In short, there's no redeeming value to keeping a Backseat Driver in the guild, so it's wise to make a break and part ways.

Everyone kicking the ball

While we're on the topic of voicing opinions, it's worth considering when and where that should be done. Good guild leaders open up the lines of communication, but they also know that there's a time and a place for it and that you can't let things drag on too long either. The best times to have chats are when you have as many guildies on as possible, but not during a time when there's a big guild activity. It's hard to have a productive conversation when half of your guild is popping in and out of PvP instances, and it's a waste of valuable raid time to conduct long talks during the raid. Also, you need to make a clear call in the end or you'll end up with a guild where everyone tries to do it his own way, and the result looks like a youth soccer game with a big clump of kids all kicking the ball. You can't please everyone, but the ones who dissent will still give you their support because they are in it for the team. And over time, you'll build up a record of getting it right, and tough calls will be easier because of the trust you've built up along the way.

All in all, it's OK to have differences of opinion in the guild, and it's actually necessary if you want to be able to evaluate a problem from a variety of perspectives. But while dissent is OK, the rationale behind it might not be, and if someone's getting enjoyment from a decision that doesn't work out, he's sending the message that he really doesn't care about being part of the guild. In that case, the only way to handle it is to accommodate his desire and kindly ask him to move on.

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.
This article was originally published on Massively.