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The Guild Counsel: When do you trust the new guy?

Karen Bryan

When you're running a guild, there are lots of clear, right and wrong, cut and dried issues to take on. It might not be easy to carry them out, but it's pretty easy to know what the right decision is. There are some, however, that aren't so clear, and it's hard to even gauge which variables might help reveal the best solution. One of those naggingly difficult areas is knowing when to put your trust in a new member. A good recruitment policy will help filter out bad matches, but at what point do you know that a new member really is a good fit with the guild and can be trusted? As much as I'd like to just say "you'll know it when you see it" and leave it at that, I'd like to touch on a few areas that might come into play as you evaluate new members. Read on for a few ideas in this week's Guild Counsel, and add yours to the discussion below!

What trust is there in a guild?

Trust is something that rarely gets discussed yet is always a part of being in a guild. There are some obvious areas where trust comes into play, like guild bank access or posting privileges on the forums. But there are some more subtle areas as well. When do you trust that new tank to become your MT? When do you trust a member to set up and run a guild raid? When do you trust someone to hold valuable items for you to give to one of your alts? When do you trust someone enough to talk about your life out of game? Some of you will probably say never (particularly to the last question), and that's fine, but for those who are considering it, it's hard to know when to put your trust in another player.

What makes it even harder, of course, is that we can't really tell whom we're guilded with, so even if we think we know someone enough to trust him, there's that chance we're being sold a false bill of goods that will come to haunt us later. And if you look at guilds that have crumbled over the years, those implosions often boil down to either a lack of trust or a betrayal of trust between members.

Levels of trust

Luckily, it's not an all-or-nothing deal when it comes to trust in guilds. You might have one new member whom you know well enough that you grant him access to the guild bank almost immediately, yet another guildmate might not be as well known to you. In that case, there's nothing wrong with taking it slow on new members whom you aren't quite comfortable with yet. In fact, if you rush it too much, you actually risk losing the trust of the bulk of your guildmembers, who don't want to see the potential for security issues or guild breakdowns.

Of course, your guildmates can also help be the bellwether when it comes to giving new members more responsibilities and trusting them. If you're getting lots of positive feedback from members on a new recruit, that's a great sign that she's fitting in well and has the potential to be a great member. Be wary, though, of the overly helpful guildie. New members sometimes scurry around trying to be of assistance to others in guild, and while that's a terrific gesture, it might be a short-lived attempt to curry favor and gain trust. Be sure that they're helping for the right reasons and not for an ulterior motive.

Pomp and circumstance

I talked about this back when we looked at officer promotions, but it also applies to new members as well. Guilds that use guild ranks sometimes celebrate a promotion from recruit to full member with a big announcement, ceremony, or official event. On one hand, it's a nice moment of recognition for someone new and helps make them feel welcome. On the other, when you make a big deal out of something, then a big deal it becomes. Recruits might see the reward of promotion and do what it takes to get it, meaning that you won't really know who they are until after you make them a full member, and then it's too late.

When I was in guilds with fixed-duration recruitment phases, I used to warn that anyone can be a peach for 30 days, and it's true. If a less-than-trustworthy recruit knows there's a light at the end of the tunnel, he can generally outlast the trial period and behave long enough to get promoted. I've had members before ask me when they would be given more privileges in guild, and the more they asked, the less likely I was to give them out. If you make it a more organic process, with no formal time period or big celebration, then it's easier to see what people are really like before you make them a full member.

Overall, there are some warning signs to watch out for, but it's really not easy to know when you can trust someone in guild. When I look at the guildies I game with, I trust all of them, and we all know each other well enough to share occasional stories about our families, jobs, and personal lives. But I can't pinpoint exactly when we began to open up and trust each other -- it just sort of happened, but it's really neat that it did happen. Trusting your guildmates makes it easier to deal with raid wipes and in-game obstacles because no one is looking around pointing the finger to call people out. Trust also makes it easier to deal with miscommunication in chat because there's less of a tendency to assume the worst about someone. Guilds that survive over the long haul do it because the members have confidence in one another and do a good job of bringing in new members that are patient enough to earn that trust.

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.

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