An active guild is a happy guild. That doesn't necessarily mean raid, raid, raid, though. One of my favorite MMO memories was having guild harvesting nights in Vanguard. We all suited up in our brown PJ harvester outfits, and thanks to the group harvesting feature, we had a fun evening of sharing jokes while we gathered up loads of materials for the crafters. Nights for grouping, raiding, and organized PvP events are great, but even hardcore guilds take time here and there to plan out some fun. Consider setting up house tours of members' homes, guild races and contests, holiday events (like a secret swap among guildies), or even an occasional night when you take the time to recap guild accomplishments and highlight member contributions and achievements -- these are all great ways to bring the guild together but also to keep the guild atmosphere active.
It's amazing how often the reason for a member's unhappiness is simply that he feels as if he's not part of the team. Managing a guild is a big effort, yet things usually fall on the shoulders of a small minority of the guild. Many members are ready and willing to contribute, and it's worth it for guild leaders to offer up small tasks and responsibilities that players can volunteer to do. (And the emphasis is on volunteer!) Giving people ways to contribute helps them stay active, brings the guild closer together, and makes the guild that much stronger.
Talk about beyond the game
Sometimes, what really is making someone unhappy has nothing to do with the game or the guild at all. Everyone has frustrating moments in life, and while games offer the chance to get away from things, it's hard not to bring that baggage into the game. Someone might go into a five-minute rant about why a certain class nerf has ruined the game, but in reality he's upset about something that happened to him long before he even logged in.
Not everyone wants to talk about her life outside the game, but in guilds with a longtime core of members, it usually happens naturally. People log in and share stories about various aspects of their lives, and that actually helps create a happy guild atmosphere. It's nice to see a friend log in and be met with congratulations not only on the uber sword that she won last night but on getting married or getting a pay raise or acing an exam. You can't force it (and you actually shouldn't), but when it naturally happens, it's great because the guild becomes a support system. The above rant could be a potential source of drama, but in a close-knit guild, chances are that the guild will lend an ear and words of support that could help that upset player.Watch your wording
It's amazing how easily things get misinterpreted over the internet. Thanks to video and voice chat, it's much better than it was when we had to rely on just type in our games, but we still lack the benefit of being face to face. I remember a coach who was trying to get one of his players pumped up for the game, but his words of inspiration came across as yelling, and the poor player ended up in tears. It's amazing how a simple phrase like "come on!" can have completely different meanings based on tone, emphasis, and body language.
Longtime guildies tend to have fewer issues with the war of words because they know each other well and have a better sense what someone means. They also avoid jumping to conclusions, and they take the time to follow up and get clarification if there's something that concerns them about what a fellow member has said. In newer guilds, it's harder to do that because members haven't had the chance to build up trust. In general, though, happy guilds are ones in which the members take care in how they talk to each other.Honestly hear them out
You might not acquiesce to a player complaint, but it's still important to listen to why someone's unhappy. If you've done a good job of screening potential members and you felt he deserved a tag, then he deserves to be heard. At the same time, he owes it to you to let you explain what you will and won't do to address the reason for his unhappiness. You might be able to take action to help make things better, but the key is that both sides are willing to give the benefit of doubt and are putting the interests of the overall guild in the forefront. It's possible that the only solution is for the unhappy member to move on, but hopefully an honest, rational discussion will help avoid that.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.