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Officers' Quarters: Mandate disaster

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.

In our quest to keep our guilds healthy, officers can sometimes become overzealous. This week, a guild leader tries a bit too hard to get some recruiting help from her officers.

... I paid to move a guild we started on an RP PVP realm from there to an RP PVE realm, which is where we are now. Initially I took the GM slot with two co-gm's and two officers out the gates. Since then we've grown a little and recruited two class officers to help out. Things were going great ... but the guild has been faltering, failing a little, even.

To try and bolster ranks and get things going, we three gm's decided to hold a series of meetings to get input and feedback, as well as to make it known our intentions for the guild ...

The first meeting was just the three of us. We decided on several issues as a group after discussing them. We changed some policies, and made a decision to require a little more involvement from our officers, be it recruitment, activity on the guild forums, active roleplay, etc. We really weren't going to ask for a lot, just some help here and there. We realized they had work or school they dealt with, sometimes both, but then so did we. ... All in all, the meeting was a hit! I really felt things were going to be working better and the guild was going to thrive because of these new changes.

The second meeting was for everyone in the guild. We wanted their feedback on the direction of the guild RP wise and to advise them of some changes to policies that wouldn't really affect them ... During the meeting the guild was silent, very little feedback was being offered. I felt like I was talking to an empty vent. I spent hours putting together an outline, making sure everything was there and accurate so that I could take notes for the few who couldn't make it and posted this on the forums afterward. ...

The third meeting was specifically for officers. We didn't get far before all hell broke loose. Before I get into that, let me give you some insight as to the tools made available to our officers so they knew what was going to be discussed at the meeting, even before the GM meeting took place.

One of the officers gave us access to a website that allows us all to edit a document. Every officer had a login and an ability to see what was being discussed on it. This went on for over a week before we set up the GM meeting. I know the three gm's and that one officer were the only ones to actively look at it. One other officer looked at it once, I don't know about the other two. ...

So here we are at the meeting. I mention that we're asking for a simple contribution of time to recruiting, and a more active stance on the forums and application process. But it was saying we wanted two hours at least a week devoted to helping recruit. The equivalent of twenty minutes a day. ...

The response I got from all three officers that made it to the meeting was "This is a game, not a job, we're not doing it." (One officer couldn't make it.) I stated that this was the decision the three GM's had come up with and it wasn't a lot of time. If they weren't willing to make contributions to helping the guild grow we would need to see about some new officers. (After it escalated, I stated that.) The response was "So we dance to your tune or hit the road?" I immediately felt cornered. I hadn't meant it to be a my way or the highway statement. I was grasping at thin air. My co-GM's were saying nothing. ...

So in a snap decision, I handed GM over to the silent co-gm and logged off. Later I talked to her and she said "Well if it's not going to work for people we need to come up with something else." Why didn't she bring that up in the meeting? Asking for an alternative that the three stubborn officers wouldn't offer themselves?

So now here I am, feeling like they distinctly want me to leave. ... I don't know what to do. I don't want to give up the guild.

Exhausted, Cornered, Regretful

Hi, ECR. I think there are some valuable lessons to be learned here. I also think you did some things well. Let's go over both.

You are a highly motivated and dedicated leader, and I think your guild doesn't quite appreciate that the way they should. You actively worked to improve the guild. You tried to motivate and to generate discussion. You made sure everyone was involved and informed. These are all great ways to solve problems in a guild and keep members invested. Don't let this experience discourage you from trying again the future.

Meetings over Vent tend to be awkward affairs in my experience. You don't have the visual cues about when someone is done speaking, so it can be difficult for people to jump in. Some people are also just shy about talking in big groups. Even though no one can see them, the social anxiety is still there. For this reason, it can sometimes be better to discuss specific issues in forum threads or even just in gchat.

Bad assumptions

One way you went wrong is that you assumed your other officers are as motivated as you are. They are not -- but then, few MMO leaders would spend hours on a meeting outline like you did, so perhaps it's an unfair comparison.

It may have helped if you had engaged with officers in brief conversations prior to the meeting to remind them about the document and that you'd like their input on it. It's often the case that people simply won't do something outside of their usual routine until they're asked about it one on one. It's annoying, but that's human nature.

Ultimatums never work

Quantifying the recruiting effort and then making it an ultimatum was the biggest misstep here. Anytime you tell people in an MMO that you need X hours per week from them "or else," they are going to feel "cornered" themselves. They are going to resist it, because to a certain extent they are right: when you put a number on it like that, it does begin to feel like a job.

Your approach put them on the defensive immediately and left them with no good options. They either bow to your whims and feel bullied or they quit and feel wronged. Your other guild leaders didn't back you because I think they sensed that this was not the right way to get help.

A better approach would have been to ask your officers whether they had time to help you recruit. If they say yes, then you could ask, "Do you think you could spend an hour or two every week?" Asking in that way comes across as much friendlier than assigning hours.

Remember that officers are volunteers -- you're asking them for favors by definition. Giving them mandates is contrary to the nature of the role. I don't believe in keeping officers around who don't actively do anything for the guild. Even so, you have to treat them like the volunteers they are, rather than employees.

An unhealthy hierarchy

It also seems that there is a bit of a divide among the officers. Why are the three guild leaders having private meetings without the other officers? I could understand if there was already a specific problem with an officer than needed to be addressed, but if you're just talking about stepping up recruiting efforts, why shouldn't they be there for that?

Your guild seems to have an unhealthy hierarchy where the guild leaders make the important decisions and then these decisions are dictated to the other officers. I wouldn't want to be led that way.

Losing control

Finally, you let your emotions get the better of you in this situation. This doesn't have to mean the end of your relationship with the guild. You obviously care a lot about it -- in fact, you might actually care too much!

You've obviously put a lot of time and effort into the guild. When you care about something, it's easy to lose your cool when things don't go as expected. As a leader, however, it's important to remain calm and in control, at least in front of your guild members. They will lose respect for you when you react this way.

Too many times, people think the solution to drama is to run away. That's the "easy" way out, but I don't think you should leave. I think you should talk to your officers about what happened. Explain what you were trying to do and why. Apologize for all the ways that it went wrong. Admit that you reacted badly. Tell them what you learned from the experience. Ask how you can make it right. It sounds cheesy, but it works. People are more willing to forgive and forget than many officers assume.

Hopefully you can all move beyond this and focus on getting the guild back on track. The first step would be to mend the rift between guild leaders and officers. There shouldn't be such a drastic distinction. Then get everyone on board with what the officers -- all the officers -- need to do to recruit. Come up with a plan as a mutual agreement, not orders handed down from on high, and you'll get a lot more cooperation.


Officers' Quarters keeps your guild leadership on track to cope with sticky situations such as members turned poachers or the return of an ex-guild leader and looking forward to what guilds need in Mists of Pandaria. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to

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