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Officers' Quarters: Last stop on the gravy train

Scott Andrews

Every Monday, Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook, available this spring from No Starch Press.

What is the purpose of an officer? Most would say, "to run a guild." Here's where definitions begin to diverge. To some players, running a guild means little more than handling guild invites and occasionally managing drama. Those duties are fine if your guild exists for purely social reasons. Any guild that is actively raiding, PvP'ing in an organized way or holding official roleplaying sessions requires much more from its officers. Too often, the vast majority of those tasks fall on the shoulders of a single individual. This week's email is a cry for help from one such officer.

Hi Scott!

I am the leader of a Casual/Raiding Guild, and we've been together for 2 years by now. We were like 5 or 6 close friends that met each other at another MMO and founded a Guild. When we decided to come to WoW, we founded our Guild together, and worked towards its improvement. Today, we are one of the biggest guilds at our server, and we have a strong realm reputation.

Of course the guys that founded the guild with me were officers, including their spouses as we were all close friends, and founded the guild together. That was the right thing at that time.

They sometimes worked as counselors at some difficult times that we had, when I was lost and didn't know what to do or how to do. However, most of these guys never helped me at all with the "every day job" like recruiting, leading a raid, being the master looter, handling drama, or every other daily task that all the guilds have. Every single problem or drama that shows up, I need to solve by myself.

They couldn't even organize a single guild event or raid. Everything is under my responsibility and that is overwhelming for me.

Well, now, I have the feeling that these guys should not be officers anymore, however they helped me sometimes with some advice, and they founded the guild with me. Some of them are giving the game a break of 3 or 4 months.

I'm totally lost. Should I keep them as officers, as they occasionally give me some advice on how to lead the guild? Or should I take them out of the officer's position and make new officers that can really help me with the everyday job? I'm not sure what the right thing to do is. I'm pretty sure that If I take them out of the "Officer " position, there will be a LOT of drama for me to handle.

Can you help me??



M, I don't blame you for feeling overwhelmed. No single person can lead a large guild and carry out all the accompanying responsibilities single-handedly. It's a one-way train ticket to Burnout Town.

Your officers are also riding a train -- the gravy train. They are enjoying the status and privilege of their rank, but they are not putting in the effort of supporting the guild. It's time for you to put an end to it. You can do this without causing too much drama and without insulting your friends. Here is what I recommend.

First of all, you have to square this decision with your own conscience. As to that, I hope you'll consider this point: Past deeds and occasional advice are not what keeps a guild going. Guilds survive only because their members, primarily officers, are willing to work hard to organize events, manage resources, resolve drama and recruit players to account for turnover.

Second, make a list of all the duties that running your guild entails. Every guild will have its own list depending on the size and the nature of the community, as well as what sort of in-game activities the guild supports. Don't just write down everything that you're currently doing. Include all of the tasks that you would like to see done but don't have the time to manage.

Third, communicate to your existing officers that you are overburdened. Explain that you can't keep up with all the needed tasks. For now, keep this conversation private among the existing officers.

Present your list to them. Ask for volunteers to manage each duty. Make it clear that you will not be disappointed if someone doesn't have the time or the inclination to help out any longer. Also make it clear that in order for any officer to retain the rank, he or she will need to choose and carry out at least one of the items on the list.

This strategy accomplishes two things. It delegates responsibility to the officers who are willing to help. At the same time, it weeds out any officers who cannot or will not help you. It gives them a way to bow out without a confrontation. They can simply say, "I'm sorry, but I can't help right now." They may feel bad about it, but at least they won't feel like you're "firing" them. You've put the choice squarely in their own hands.

As for yourself, you can either choose the duties you'd like to keep fulfilling, or you can delegate everything and help out with everything. The latter method can really pay off. You'll be able to pick up the slack when people fail, coordinate the efforts of your volunteers and make sure everyone has the support they need. However, it carries a risk that everyone will simply go back to expecting you to do everything. It may be better in your situation to define the tasks you are willing to take on and let others volunteer for the rest.

Give your existing officers a deadline of about a week to reply to your request. Otherwise, people may never give you an answer. If someone doesn't reply within a few days, remind him that you're still waiting for a response. Then, at the end of the week, you can safely assume that anyone who didn't reply isn't on board with the plan, and you can demote him.

For anyone who chooses to step down, be sure to thank him for his past service to the guild. Don't guilt him over the decision. He and the guild are better off this way. Let him know that he can be promoted again if he is able to help out in the future.

Finally, whatever tasks remain after this round of volunteering, advertise them among the greater guild population. Allow anyone in the guild who'd like to help out to do so (within reason -- a fresh recruit shouldn't become part of the loot council). You don't have to promote these new volunteers to officer status immediately. Just let them know that a promotion is a definite possibility in the near future if they carry out their responsibilities effectively.

Once all the items on the list have been chosen, post the list in a place where the guild can see who's in charge of what. Follow up with your volunteers from time to time to make sure they have been able to accomplish what they set out to do. Ask them if they need help. Don't be surprised if one or two people find themselves in over their heads and ask to step down once they've had a taste of the duties their role entails. At that point, you'll have to go through another round of asking for volunteers.

While you transition to this new leadership structure, your members may still come to you about every aspect of the guild. If you send them to the appropriate player instead of handling every query and suggestion yourself, that will help both your members and your volunteers to adjust.

Hopefully -- and eventually -- you'll have a stable core of officers with specific roles. That's the ideal scenario. However, circumstances could go the other way. You could find out that no one in the guild, officers or otherwise, wants to help you. That's the worst-case outcome. If it comes down to that, you should seriously question why you're spending so much time working for these players when no one is willing to work for you!


Send Scott your guild-related questions, conundrums, ideas and suggestions at You may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!

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