To Officer or Not To Officer?

Officer Goofy

Before trying to answer that question, you first have to ask yourself what the job of officer entails for you.  An officer can be anything from an assistant who handles invites when you’re not around to a co-guild leader in all but name to a useless sycophant on a power trip.

I’ll not address the last variant for obvious reasons, so let’s take a look at what an officer might be responsible for.  This is by definition a subset of the guild leader’s job:

In the list above, I’ve marked with a * the jobs that require extra permissions in-game, and with a ** the jobs that require extra permissions out-of-game (like access to an additional forum on the guild’s message board).

In most guilds that I’ve been a member of, officers have been responsible for all of these things.  I’ll use the above list as the definition of the officer in the opening question.

Guild Leader Surrogates

Having someone online to perform certain tasks like invites, kicks, promotions an demotions when you’re not around is a must.  The guild leader can’t be on 24/7.  But do these people have to be officers?  Probably not.  The guild control interface lets you give someone invite/kick/promote/demote privileges, and you can never elevate someone any higher than one rank below you.  With some careful planning (e.g. don’t create an “officer alt” rank that allows guild bank withdrawals), you can designate people as surrogates for these day to day tasks without them being officers.

Loot Distribution

Next, let’s look at loot distribution.  If you’re using EP/GP, you can have a “loot master” rank that can edit officer notes, but doesn’t have any additional guild privileges.  If you’re using an out-of-game loot system like DKP, you just have to give the apropriate permission level in whatever tool you use.  Again, you can have people perform this job without being officers.

Managing Guild Events and Leading Raids

Neither of these jobs require that people be officers.  Whether you use the built-in calendar, the Group Calendar addon, people with a knack for it will find ways to organize people.  If you want, you can give your members (or raiders if you prefer) the ability to create guild events in the in-game calendar.

Guild Bank Controllers

The guild bank is a point of contention.  As I’ve ranted about in the past, having the GM as the only person able to withdraw enchanting materials and the like is a bad idea.  But in the wrong hands, withdrawal privileges can hurt a guild.  I’m willing to say that it’s necessary to designate at least one person who will be able to withdrawal a reasonable number of items (and gold) from the guild bank, but that permissions not be set up in such a fashion that nobody else can see the log for that bank tab.  Whoever has such access needs to know that others are watching how they use and/or abuse their privileges, and that they will be held to account for any malfeasance.

Guild Policy Decisions

If you mainly discuss these outside of the game, then you just need additional forum access.  I found it helpful to have the group of people who commented on proposed policy changes be significantly larger (10-15 people) than an officer corps would usually be.  This is an excellent way to recognize your dedicated members – ask them if they’d like to provide feedback on proposed policy changes.

Class Lead

This is just a notional role within the guild, so you don’t have to be an officer to perform this job.

Guild Leader Heir

This is where things get a bit complex.  If you decentralize all these jobs within the guild, then who do members look to for leadership when the GM is unavailable?  My recommendation is to pick one person who will wear the GM hat any time an issue comes up and the GM will not be available to address it within one day.  Change the person who wears the hat regularly (quarterly or monthly as required) and make sure that the guild knows who the person is.  Make sure that anyone else with elevated privileges understands that this person is there to act in your stead.

Make sure that the person understand your vision for the guild, but be prepared for them to make mistakes, or at least for them to decide things differently that you might.  Unless the variance from the choice you would have made is massive, try to live with their choices, perhaps discussing why you would have chosen differently.  Essentially, groom someone to replace you, either in preparation for a time when you need to take an extended break or something unexpected happens.

Training your own replacement may sound like strange advice, but it has some clear advantages:

It may seem from this description that you would need to select from someone who performed a traditional officer’s job to be the guild leader heir, but I think this is just a cultural and historical bias manifesting itself in our virtual world.  Or perhaps it’s a fear of what would happen if you disappeared and your heir designate was made the new guild leader by a Blizzard GM, leapfrogging over people who are perceived as being more senior.

Of all the tasks assigned to someone in the guild, this requires the highest level of trust.  If you have such a person in the guild, it’s a fair bet that they already have some additional responsibility.  This may not always be the case however.  Sometimes GM burnout will result in a guild leader joining another guild as a rank and file member.  Perhaps they want a break from leadership and will take on no additional responsibility, but their experience still makes them the best choice to succeed you.  So long as your rationale for designating this person is made clear to the guild, this shouldn’t be a problem.

If you lay a proper policy out to those who do have additional permissions, your heir can even function (albeit more slowly) without additional rank – they just have to proxy actions through others, who should follow the designate’s requests as if they were your own.

So, Do We Officer or Do We Not?

How best to put this?  You don’t need officers, but you do need assistants.  You can spread the job of assistant among many people.  You may see some benefit in this, in that it keeps people engaged and in some cases gives them a reason to log on regularly.  If you choose to stack up the assistant jobs onto a small enough number of people, you end up with the textbook guild leader and two-to-five officer structure that most of us are familiar with.

You may delegate only a few jobs because you play all the time.  If you choose to do this, I’d still nominate an heir to cover things like vacations or unexpected illness, and have a rank you can safely promote that person to during a planned absence.

The one job you can choose to keep all to yourself is policy.  This will depend on your leadership philosophy, as well as the desire your assistants have in influencing policy.  If your assistants want to be a part of this, you may be doing them or yourself a disservice by keeping policy all to yourself.  Personally, I’ve had enough of arguments about policy.  While I might choose to bounce a proposed policy change off a few people, it will be after I’ve done my share of thinking and come to a conclusion.  Only if I receive a near-unanimous negative response would I postpone and re-think things.  But that’s me.

Do you officer or not?