The Appearance of the Repeating Clique
This is one of those difficult situations for guild leaders to manage, because it’s often difficult to see cliques forming, and by the time they have, you’re in a position where any action taken is multiplied by the size of the clique.
It isn’t my intent to suggest that there should be no social aspects to a raiding guild, or that recruiting members who know each other should be discouraged. My intent is to help guild leaders be aware of the potential pitfalls when your guild is made up not of 15 to 40 individual raiders, but 5 to 10 groups of raiders who will act in unison.
The Gaelic Brigade and the Fall of the Clan
All me to illustrate with an example from the last guild I was a member of. When I joined, you’d frequently see reference to “the Gaelic Brigade” (the name has been changed) in guild chat. To someone unfamiliar with the situation, you’d think that it was another guild on the server that we were allied with. The reality was that nearly half the guild was made up of members who all spoke the same language and operated almost as a guild within the guild. They’d run 5 man groups and 10 man raids together, though if you didn’t know who was a part of the clique and who wasn’t, you might never realize that this was going on.
We started 25-man Uludar two days after patch 3.1 was released. As with many guilds, we plowed through Flame Leviathan, but had some serious problems with the other bosses in the siege, especially XT-002 (who has been nerfed four times since I believe). Everyone probably went through two full repair cycles for a couple of nights, and morale was low. The next time we had a raid scheduled, we found that the members of the brigade were already in Ulduar running a 10 man group “because they were tired of wiping”. This left us unable to do 25 man that night, and more than a few unkind words were exchanged in guild chat – nobody was very pleased that this sub-group had killed our heroic raid.
The next night, the brigade didn’t run 10 man Ulduar, but refused to join the scheduled 25 man run. The night after that, the officers got together and booted the entire clique from the guild, decimating our ranks. The guild has never really recovered – more than half the core raiders left in the next week, and while they have built back up to heroic raiding strength over the last four months, they haven’t downed the keepers on heroic yet (we were up to General Vezax on 10 man when I left).
What Went Wrong
So what went wrong here? Quite a few things. This all happened while the GM was away attending to a family emergency. He hadn’t nominated an heir, and hadn’t brought the officers up to speed on the arrangement that he had made with the brigade. They claimed that when they were invited in, he said that they didn’t have an obligation to raid with the guild proper, but we’d appreciate it if they did. Nobody else understood this, and to this day I don’t know if it was true or not. The core raiders were a clique unto themselves, having mostly come from another guild which had fallen apart some time previously. When they left, it was coordinated, with six people /gquitting in the space of a few minutes, and all of them applying to another guild in unison.
Any guild can sustain the loss of a member or two. Every guild leader should be prepared for this – never stop recruiting, always have a back bench ready to step up, etc. What most guilds cannot sustain is the walkout or kicking of a large chunk of their member base. On a numbers scale alone it can be devastating, but the morale hit to the members that remain can make recovery very difficult.
In my experience, it’s not very common for cliques to form organically within guilds from people who had no connection with each other before they joined. They tend to come from members who joined as a group, either because they are friends out-of-game or because they have a history from another guild that they are no longer members of.
Should you then avoid recruiting groups of people? A very tough call. Ideally, you’re never in a position where recruiting large groups is a good thing, because it will throw off your raiding balance. Conversely, when your balance is already off, your immediate need to keep raiding may override concerns about potential problems down the road. My advice here is to never stop recruiting. Never let your raiding balance get to the point where you need to recruit a large group of people to keep raiding. If the situation arises, have the courage to stand on principle and recruit individuals, even if they come to you as a group. Don’t make deals with the leader of a group of people whereby you will bring in the entire group without evaluating each member on merit.
The danger once you have cliques in the guild is that you may be discouraged from treating the member of a clique as an individual for fear that you will be seen by their friends as a bully, and in doing so risk losing the other members. You have five star players who have been carrying their friend along for years, but no matter how many times you point it out, they still die to void zones or Mimiron rockets. The best way to avoid this is to make sure your guild policies clearly state that individual performance issues will be reviewed, and that everyone who applies agrees to this. If it becomes an issue, be principled. Don’t let a group of members bully you into letting a sub-par player keep raiding. Once you grant a sub-group power to override your guild policies, you’ve started down a slippery path that rarely ends well. Eventually you’ll have to make a decision that the group disagrees with and you’ll lose them anyway.
Of course, you can’t enforce these types of policies if they aren’t written down and published somewhere. Avoid “common knowledge” and “verbal understandings” as to the standards your members are expected to keep. Don’t be overly verbose, but make sure that when someone says “I didn’t know that” you have a place you can point to and say “but you said you agreed to it when you joined”.
Mixing Things Up
Let’s say that you’re now in a position where you have one or more sub-groups in the guild. If you can’t break down the bonds inside of these groups, your other option is to strengthen the bonds the individual members have to the guild. Once you have the current tier of content on farm, make one of your raid nights a heroic raid night where you organize groups to do particular heroic tasks. You can incentivize people to do this via your loot system, or guild bank rewards, but the most important aspect is to not let members form their own groups. If you know who your cliques are, split them up. Don’t create imbalanced groups (nobody likes to be on “the B team”), but try to make sure that people who wouldn’t choose to run together get a chance to. You’re not trying to form new groups, only make sure that people who identify with a sub-group within the guild realize that the guild as a whole has more to offer them.
Strengthen those bonds and you may find that over time the cliques revert to being just a bunch of friends who happen to be in the same guild.
Until Next Time