The Importance of Dealing with Dead Weight

Last night I joined an Ulduar 10 semi-pug (half of the attendees were from one guild). Only about half of the members had any experience with the fights, but most of the inexperienced people were receptive to explanations we gave.

Except one.

Our group included one member who had no experience in the instance, hadn’t read any strategies beforehand, put out mediocre DPS for his gear level, continually interrupted the raid leaders with inane comments, and didn’t pay attention to the directions that were given. When he inevitably died early in every boss fight, he continued to spew into raid chat, distracting those who were working to get the boss down. After every lost roll he screamed at the unfairness of the universe.

Basically, he wanted to be carried through the instance and didn’t care that he was making the experience worse for everyone else in the process.

As main tank, I used what latitude I had to address this: more than once I told him to go read strategies during breaks, but he didn’t. By the end I was outright telling him to shut up and asking the raid leader to kick him (as were others who were whispering me).  (as an aside, being on a RP server does  have it’s advantages: I can /yell “for the love of all that is holy, please shut your mouth before my shield shuts it for you” and it fits perfectly coming from a paladin).

This type of character isn’t uncommon in a pickup group. Depending on the instance, you can usually threaten them with replacement and let their desire for loot, but the raid leader last night didn’t choose that route. We got as far as Auriaya and the group disbanded.

We’ve All Seen This Before

The problem is that this archetype is far too prevalent in WoW. Someone who doesn’t feel they have to pull their own weight and doesn’t adjust their behaviour when told that it’s detrimental to the group. It’s not realistic to assume that such people only “turn on the jerk” when in pickup groups, so I have to assume that this was just that person’s personality and that he’d be the same among his own guild members.

As a guild leader, you’re going to run into someone like this really quickly if you haven’t already. How you choose to deal (or choose not to deal with it) can have an impact on your group or guild.  Whether it’s spoken or not, the members of your group or guild will expect you to deal with these situations when they arise.

Why should you care? Because your ability to manage a misfit member of a group is what makes or breaks you in the eyes of the others members of the group. If you can straighten the person out or get rid of and replace them, you’re making their lives easier and they’ll be more eager to group with you or follow your lead in the future. Conversely, if you refuse or are afraid to deal with someone who is pulling the group down, many people (myself included) will either take the job upon themselves (which leads to anarchy) or suffer silently through it and resolve to not join another group that you’re leading.

These more polarized positions are of course more likely to be taken when in PUGs. In a guild, the effect may be more subtle but also more damaging because it affects morale. Nobody’s going to quit because you failed to deal with someone causing drama during a raid. But the episode will be remembered, and when it happens again, you’ll be under increased scrutiny to do better. Fail to do that and you may find people not signing up for raids or otherwise avoiding guild activities because they don’t want to deal with the people problems that go hand-in-hand with large group activities.

Management – Running Interference For Those Under You

In real life, my job is a typical computer programmer. I work for a larger international company that has more ass-backward policies that I thought it was possible to write down. Like Peter Gibbons in Office Space, it sometimes feels like I have eight bosses – program and project managers from three different countries contact me regularly for status updates and project estimates.

My manager came up through the ranks and dislikes the policies and dotted lines as much as I, but he does take it upon himself to try to run interference. When someone tries to get answers directly from me that are supposed to be “filtered” before release, I just send them to him. If someone asks for something unreasonable, I send them to him. If someone on the team isn’t pulling their weight or is obstructing me in some way, I go to him. When it’s time to do our performance reviews, I can count on him to not tell us it’s due until two days before the deadline, then tell us to do the absolute minimum to get the computerized HR system to accept it.

Basically, my manager takes care of most of the busy work day to day so that I can come in and do what I do best – design and write code.

Ways People Fail to Fit

When I join a group or guild in WoW, that’s the type of person I’m looking to lead it – someone who does the organizing and day-to-day management so I can concentrate on being the best tank / healer / dps that I can be. If someone gets in the way of doing that by:

  • not reading strategies ahead of time
  • showing up unprepared (gear, consumables, etc.)
  • not understanding their class (gear selection and a basic rotation)
  • not listening to raid leader instructions
  • interrupt raid leaders during instructions
  • not following raid leader instructions
  • chatting just to see their own name in the chat window

then I want my raid or guild leader to step in so I can back to doing what I do best.

Dealing With It

Now that you’re faced with someone who exhibits one or more of these traits, how should you deal with it?

If you’re leading any group that isn’t all-guild, take a hard line, no questions asked.  Set expectations at the start, give one warning, and preferably make the warning known to the rest of the group.  This has a double effect – the offender knows that the group’s eyes are on him, and if it comes to the point where you have to kick the person, you’ve got proof that you did so fairly.  Whether you do kick or not depends on whether you think you can get someone else to replace them, or are at a point in the instance where you can stand the loss of a player.  If you’d rather not kick, you might tell the person that they have to go review the next boss fight on a strategy site while the rest of the group clears trash.

With an all-guild group, you should be a little more lenient.  You have time outside of the raid to speak with the person, so a quick whisper telling them to concentrate harder and that you’ll discuss with them further after the raid.  If the offence merits and your loot system allows, a loot penalty (either negative point awards or forfeiture of bonuses) may be a more expeditious way of handling things.  I find that nothing straightens someone out like a swift boot to the wallet.

Don’t invite them to the next raid until you’ve had a chance to discuss the problem.  If they’re still in a trial period, make sure they understand that continuing in this vein risks them not becoming a full member.  Make sure that the expectations are clear: if someone has an average gear item level of 219 yet puts out 1500 dps, you need to be clear that failing to bring that number up to X on the next raid will get them booted (if that’s the direction you want to go).  Just don’t say “you have to improve or else” or “we’ll review this next week” without stating specifics.  You obviously have a target number in mind (otherwise you wouldn’t have anything to compare the low dps value to), so just come out and say it.

In contrast to the PUG situation, making these discussions (or the fact that they are going on) public knowledge within the guild is probably not a good idea.  Members expect these types of talks to be going on all the time between leaders and members, so there’s no need to draw further attention to it.  There’s also no need to cover yourself, as the decision to boot a member is part and parcel of leadership.  Of course, follow whatever policies you’ve set down in this regard.  If a member inquires as to whether a given problem player is being addressed, you should be able to provide some assurance – “yes, we’re reviewing his performance / attitude / whatever” – if not the specifics.

If you’re the type who doesn’t handle confrontation well, this may be a task you delegate.  It takes all types to form a guild, and you can probably find someone who perhaps lacks the ability to lead a raid but is better at dealing with people.  The person doesn’t have to be an officer, though some level of private communication with the officers makes things go a little more smoothly.

Whatever you do, don’t go with the passive-aggressive approach, saying nothing and hoping that things get better, then exploding when they don’t for several weeks.  You (or another leader) needs to take an active role in improving these situations.  Nor should you try to make life within the guild uncomfortable for the person, hoping that they’ll just choose to quit.  Not only are these approaches childish, but they suffer from appearing to be inaction in the eyes of your members.  Very few people like to fight, either in life or in game, but when you’ve agreed to wear the top hat, you sometimes have to do things that you’re not comfortable with for the good of the guild or group.

Until Next Time

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