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Officers' Quarters: When a sense of obligation covers up burnout

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 now from No Starch Press.

Officer burnout takes many forms. Sometimes it manifests as a subtle, creeping bitterness. Sometimes it shows up suddenly, as unexpected rage. Sometimes, it's a feeling of emptiness, like the one described in this week's email. This week, I'll look at this particular form of burnout and talk about what this officer can do to cure it.
Dear Officer's Quarters,

I am an officer in a fairly successful 25-man raiding guild (currently #2 on our server). I've been part of the guild leadership for over a year at this point, and my tenure has been characterized by my dedication and hard work. My guildmaster has privately told me on several occasions that he feels that I'm the person in the guild that "tries the hardest." However, of late, I feel that my hard work is no longer rewarding me with anything, not even a feeling of accomplishment.

The problem really seems that my efforts aren't acknowledged, and I'm appreciated for very little if nothing at all. Of course, this is probably the situation for most officers, as guildies tend not to say anything if nothing is wrong. However, I feel that my situation goes deeper than that.

I don't really have any close friends in the guild anymore; most of them have either moved on or have personally changed. I also am online much less than most people in the guild; due to my status as a college student, I have to manage my time very judiciously, but this really hurts my ability to form any sort of relationship with the newer members of the guild, and I've had people tell me that I appear distant and aloof.

In the end though, I play this game and put my effort in as an officer because I can always count on some sort of satisfaction coming from it, mainly from being a part of a team. At this point, however, I really am questioning whether I am part of that team anymore.

I once had a therapist tell me that I shouldn't put huge amounts of energy into something that I get little to no satisfaction from, and that it's unhealthy. She was talking about a relationship with a girlfriend that I was struggling with at the time, but I feel that this applies to my current situation as well. Do you have any advice for me?


Unfulfilled, you didn't use the word burnout in your email, but that's what I'm hearing. You're not having fun anymore -- and that's the whole point of playing!

Your situation

Different forms of burnout stem from different causes. The rage I mentioned earlier, for example, is often the result of long-standing, deep-seated frustrations that one day all come bursting to the surface. Your burnout is more of a general malaise. Because you feel alienated from the guild, you derive little pleasure or sense of accomplishment from helping the guild to succeed. I would argue that feeling satisfied with officer duties can only occur when you feel some sort of bond with the people in the guild. Lacking that, even their overt thanks (which, as you say, are seldom offered in most guilds) would probably not entirely satisfy you.

I've been there, too, and I'm sure you'll see comments below from other officers who feel the same way. Guilds that survive do change over time, particularly their rosters. Sometimes you take a look around and realize that everyone you joined the guild to play with has moved on or stopped playing.

When I made the decision to shut down my own guild for good, a big part of that decision stemmed from what had happened to the roster. The guild had been founded with friends, and it grew and thrived under our leadership. Over the years, those friends stopped playing WoW one by one. Sure, I had made new friends also, but the roster had changed so much, especially at the officer level, that it just wasn't the same guild at all anymore.

In your case, it sounds like you haven't been able to replace your departed friends with new ones due to other obligations, so you're actually in worse shape that I was. I would suggest choosing one of two paths.

Two paths

Path A Take a break from the game for a week or two. See how you feel at the end of it when you log back in. If you feel refreshed and happy to be back, then make an attempt to get to know your guildmates better. Run some heroics with them when you can spare the time, or just hang out in Orgrimmar/Stormwind and chat with people while you're doing homework. Hopefully, over time, you'll feel more connected to the guild and will once again feel some pride and satisfaction from helping to lead it.

If, on the other hand, you don't feel good about logging in again after your break, step down from your officer position and reevaluate what you want out of WoW, if indeed you want anything at this point. It may be time for you to stop playing for a longer time period.

Path B Explain how you feel to your guild leader and step down from the position. Continue to play to see if lifting the burden of responsibility allows you to enjoy the game again.

Being an officer comes with a lot of baggage, and it's hard to go back to being a normal member in the same guild you once helped lead. You may need to explore the possibility of joining another guild, possibly one that a friend of yours belongs to, before you can actually have fun playing WoW again.

I was on the verge of quitting WoW altogether when I had an opportunity to join a great guild on my server that just needed a good raider. Being back in the trenches -- rather than surveying the field from the command post -- has renewed my interest in the game. I've made new friends there without the added pressures and duties of leadership.


Sometimes, the best cure for burnout is taking a break. Sometimes, the only cure is a complete change of pace. Ultimately, you have to decide which cure is better for your situation. The one thing I can tell you is that you can't continue to go on as you have been. Burnout, as I've said, takes different forms, and one form -- feeling unfulfilled -- can morph into another form -- depression or worse. Take care of yourself. After all, it's difficult to solve other people's problems unless you're happy with your own situation first.


Join us to learn how to survive the leveling process, deal with guild perk freeloaders, and discuss the guild talent controversy or the guild reputation system. Send Scott your guild-related questions and suggestions at; you may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!

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