On communication

So, Thursday my guild suffered a little bit of a drama bomb. Here are the basics of the setup.

Friends from another server transfer and join the guild to raid.

Members of our second 10-man team, a team which had been having a rough time some nights, go into a panic that these new people are there to replace them. This is in spite of the very public announcements that they are joining to fill out our 25s.

Due to the panic in Team 2, the new folks are never taken on raids unless there is absolutely no other option to fill that 10-mans. It is presented to the leadership that the new folks are not being taken due to them not being online when the raids start. Nothing is ever presented to contradict this.

Understandably upset, resentment toward the guild grows among the new people, while resentment for my 10-man team grows in the second 10-man because we’re successful and they’re investing their energies into fearful thoughts and self-fulfilling prophecies of inadequacy.

The new people form a partial guild, partial pug 10-man team. However, due to the way the EPGP loot system works, having anyone in the raid that is not in the guild precludes use of the Loot Priority score for determining loot distribution. Thus, the pugged raid is not given access to the EPGP tool yet. When first explained why, reaction is positive and understanding. In addition, not communicating to Team 2 about the fact they would be running their own raids from this point forward lead people on Team 2 to assume that folks who should be on standby (and who were accumulating Standby Effort Points) were raiding and getting locked out of content without the permission of the guild. In fact, for the first two weeks they did this, no one spoke to me about their plans to do so. I thought they were getting onto lockouts outside of scheduled guild raids, which is against guild policy for raiders.

A critical misunderstanding about the EPGP loot system leads those involved in the pugged raid to believe they are being cheated and will never receive gear on 25s. Anyone who understands EPGP’s ratio-based Loot Priority system knows this is absolutely false. Assuming number of bosses downed and Gear Point value of items won being equal, someone who attends two raids and wins two items has exactly the same Loot Priority as someone who attends one raid and wins one item. It is fair to not be getting Effort Points for one raid, because you aren’t getting Gear Points from the loot from that raid either.

The transferred folks begin to talk among themselves. They begin to construct scenarios where everyone in guild hates them because people didn’t say “grats” to an achievement, and where nothing was ever, ever going to change even if they expressed their concerns. Also, they fumed over how unfair a loot system was that they didn’t even understand. In fact, another long term member, apparently also disgruntled about unspoken things, spends at least a month fueling their dissent with her own complaints and issues. Most of which turn out to be entirely biased, fueled by personal, secret hatred of two other long time members. Members who she wished “Would die in a bus fire”.

Plans are worked out by myself and my officer to break up Team 2 and restructure it along with the transferred folks to create a better Team 2 and a Team 3. Due to financial problems of three critical members of these teams, the implementation date has to be delayed by one week. This delay and the reason for it were communicated by me on the guild forums.

The transfer folks decide to finally bring their issues to myself and my officers. The day before this is planned to happen, one of them suddenly and without warning rage gquits in the middle of a scheduled raid night. People ask what happened, and another transfer (not their lead) very angrily and hurtfully dumps all the dirty laundry into guild chat. Regular members get hurt. Tempers flare. People say some extremely unhelpful things, and I actually have to use EP deduction as a punishment to make people stop taking pot shots at each other, mostly the long term member and the objects of her hatred.

This was four days before the new system giving them a full guild group and sanctioned raid team would have put their 10-man efforts on the EPGP system.

In the end, the transfer folks are gone. So is this long term member who wished other guild members would die. I do not regret seeing her leave, because that kind of attitude is, in another guild member’s words, toxic. I do, however, regret what happened with the transferred folks. There is no reason on earth any of this had to happen. Every scrap of it could have been prevented. How? Well, I’m glad you asked, because that’s the root of this post.


Let’s review these events and see how in every link of the chain leading to the fallout, communication could have prevented any further strife.

Had the members of the second team come to us and asked if they were being replaced, they would have found out that they were not. Rather, they assumed wrongly that they were and acted accordingly.

Had they known they were not, the animosity toward the transfers would not have happened. Or, at least, would not have been as acute. Deliberate efforts would not have been made to exclude them from Team 2 out of fear.

Had the transfers communicated to me that they were growing more and more upset with the guild and why, I could have taken steps to resolve the issue there and then. Direct meetings with them seemed to be sunshine and rainbows, almost to the point that it feels like effort was made to hide their displeasure from me, the only person in guild who could actually fix it.

Explaining their plans to the guild to start their own 10-man team would have prevented at least one specific confrontation between the transfers and a senior member of Team 2 (regarding lockouts) which lead to the deepening of their angst toward the guild.

Coming forward and asking me how the EPGP system worked instead of assuming they knew would have saved a very long time of stewing over the unfairness of the system. And yes, I am positive they had no concept of how it worked, because one of the grievances dumped into guild chat cited Effort Points and not the Loot Priority ratio as the measure of who gets loot and who doesn’t. Look up the EPGP system if you want to see how wrong this is.

The need to delay the formation of the third 10-man and the re-org of Team 2 was pretty much the only thing communicated here, and I was the one doing the communicating. However, due to people not taking the effort to read the forums most did not see this news. Failure to listen to communication is just as bad as failure to communicate.

If no voicing of concerns had happened up to this point, then this was really just about the last chance to save things by talking to people with any real shot at saving the situation. Once people who do not understand the entire situation start to talk secretly amongst themselves, then they become convinced and assured of their delusions. It becomes a mob mentality, and very quickly any thought of talking to the leadership is ruled at as useless, even though they have *never* tried it.

As a sub-note, had the long term member let me know how much she hated one of her raid partners, I could have removed her from the team so she wouldn’t have had to suffer our company. Instead, she bottled it up for months… possibly the better part of a year… until a minor discussion about which person should pick up replenishment in our team (her, or the target of her hatred) lead to near mutinous acts of sedition in fueling the transfer’s already smoldering, unvoiced anger.

And lastly… the absolute last chance for communication to save the day… the meeting the transfers intended to have with us on Friday. Too bad Thursday was the breaking point for one of them, whose gquit served as the spark in the grain silo. Had that meeting happened Thursday, Wednesday, or a month ago, none of this would have happened. I would have taken steps to fix all of this, and if anyone had left it would have been troublemakers who, now, I may still be left with without knowing their names.

In the end, no one was being replaced. No one was intentionally being ignored (though I concede that I fully understand why that perception was taken). No one was being cheated by the loot system. And the only reason I didn’t move Ms. Die in a Bus Fire out of our raid team is that she never, ever expressed to me a desire to leave. There was no communication at all.

All said, though, the guild is fine. We still have two strong 10-mans, and can probably still field 25s without too much trouble. We have several new members who joined in recent weeks, or who just hit 80, who are gearing up and have a fire in their bellies to join the raid teams. Portent Alliance lives on, as it always has in the face of adversity. I didn’t shepherd this guild for six years across three MMOs to let a little drama stop me now.

This post is not meant to out anyone. In fact I’ve tried hard to not make it obvious who is who in all of this. Those involved undoubtedly recognize themselves in here, but I strongly doubt anyone who wasn’t there would. Neither is this post meant to elicit sympathy. I was furious yesterday and the day before that, yes, but I’m actually quite calm now. The pieces have settled in my head and I have a full view, finally, of the secret goings on of the past months that were painstakingly kept from my sight. Honestly, I find the entire thing darkly hilarious when you really lay out the chain of assumptions that no one talked about and which fed off each other to result in this end.

Rather, this post is meant as a cautionary warning. Not to fellow guild leaders, but to their members. Your guild leader can’t fix what they don’t know is broken. We have a very hard job. We have to be diplomats, enforcers, lawmakers, councilors, Generals, orators, politicians, friends, peacemakers and humanitarians. Many people try to be guild leaders, and all across the full scope of the world’s MMOs great masses of them fail every day. Those of us who are successful, while we wear many hats with pride and determination, are not psychic. We rely on you to bring us your problems. We will happily deal with them, but we have to know that they’re there first.

Ask yourself this… Would you walk into an ice cream shop, stare and smile at the clerk, gesturing vaguely to the selection till they hand you a chocolate cone, and then throw it at them and rage that you wanted vanilla? I should hope not. Yet this is exactly what guild members do to their leaders on a regular basis. The best house is ultimately only as good as its foundation. The best guild leaders are only as good as their members let them be. Do not be a limiting force in your guild…



~ by Udiyvli on 01/23/2010.

9 Responses to “On communication”

  1. I am not going to make any direct statements, accusations, or airings of my opinion on the many facets of this, as A) I’m not a member of PA and B) it’s your guild, and in the end, leadership and the decisions that entails are your dominion.

    What I will say is that, if you ever wish to talk, for any reason – strategizing, my opinions on this whole mess, concepts of raid organization, whatever – my email, Twitter DM box, and Skype are available to you.

    • I appreciate that. There are, of course, some facets of what went on I don’t feel comfortable stating on my blog because they would clearly out some of the participants in unpleasant and potentially embarrassing ways. There are also some things that I do not have proof of or the full story on, and these were left out as well.

      We, in a nut shell, have likely not seen the last gquit from this. However, it’s now our goal to see to it that the next people to leave are those we we want to see gone. And that would be anyone who consciously conspired to keep these unfolding events from my attention.

  2. one sided views are always one sided views. The problem is you only see the problems from your point of view.And from what i read.Your point of view is the only one that matters.

  3. I think therefore I am.

    • By the way, Morv, I know this is you 🙂 I’ve matched your IP addresses from here and the guild forum.

      Do stay tuned to my blog for a post regarding Team 2’s stunning progress without you. \o/

    • mad bear is mad

      needs more salmon imo

  4. Hey, I found these posts by means of the comic “Wow, eh?”(-Cadistra), which I might add I avidly follow.

    First of all I want to make it clear that I am not american, neither national nor continental, so I am hereby announcing the reason for any possible misconceptions. (Thinking culturally wise mainly).

    I want to say that it is inspiring to read your posts, especially this one. I have been in several guilds and gaming organizations where I have had the experience of seeing things from the “leaders” side(s), and the “footmen”/members.

    Now, I will admit I am not all that old, (no offense intended by that phrasing), and my experience is perhaps negligble to yours.

    Even so though, reading your post(s), this one in particular, made me feel a need for both congratulations. Not for a “mission accomplished – you can now go home” context, but more of making a long wall of text, which has real substance and foundation, which I wholeheartedly agree with.

    In an effort to make a valid point with some substance in *this* wall of text, I want to point out that these posts should be hinted/linked to, (nonetheless your *concern* of humility), to more public forums, like the Blizzard WoW forums.

    I truly believe that however few may gain from this, it will be a worthy sacrifice for posting them so =). (Posting them so publicly I want to clarify, apologies for my English, I am not a native English speaker =(…)

    I would also like to engage a dialogue, official or otherwise, so I’d appreciate it if you would be able to find the time to send a reply to my email.

    PS: This might seem like a search for someone to give me some words of priase, but I assure you, that is not the intention. I am however looking for feedback on a post I wrote on the european Blizzard WoW forums.

    This is because my post, has surprisingly proven to act like some kind of scare-off. After I posted my own wall of text, I was looking forward some feedback, good or bad, but to this date I see none =(.

    I bring up this matter here, because to me, you seem to be an excellent person to give this feedback, if you would be so kind =).
    Others are welcome too of course, both good and bad!

    – Remember that good comments are in the end just a pat on the back, the bad ones are what show you how you can improve ;).

    (Christ, I wish there was a preview function, they are particularly useful for posts this length…)

  5. And of course I managed to forget to link the post I was talking about… >.<


    (I am Kareen…)

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