The Service of Officers

In scrounging the US and EU guild relations forums for inspiration, I came across this post on abuse within the officer ranks.  I haven’t quite got enough to say on that particular subject at the moment, but one thing the OP said jumped out at me:

All I got in response was him arguing with me for two hours saying that I’d turned his [sic] back on him, and stolen his glory

I’m assuming (perhaps incorrectly) that the “glory” referred to is the glory of being an officer within the guild.

*blink* *blink*

I would hope that I’m not the only guild leader who is surprised to hear the role of officer as being glorious.  At best, it can be frustrating and a source of additional work.  In a fair guild, I’d think that the most reward you could expect to get out of being an officer is an increased chance at being part of a raid, but only for mechanical reasons like needing a loot master – not just because you’re an officer.

I know I’m being a bit naïve here.  The guild relation forums and plenty of blogs are replete with examples of people who have abused their power as an officer.  Offenses range anywhere from ego-tripping to guild bank theft to outright sexual harassment.  But I doubt that this corruption stems from the position of being an officer.  Rather, these are examples of selfish, broken people who would press any advantage they were given.  WoW, and the anonymity it provides, just provides an outlet.  Think of it as an extension of Gabe’s G.I.F.T theorem (warning: NSFW).

The point I’m trying to make is that when you’re doing it right, being a part of guild leadership is a service to the members of your guild, not really a position of power.  It may not have the strict delineations of something like participatory politics, but you’re supposed to be facilitating the operation of the guild – not for reward but because you want to see the guild prosper.

Learning From Others – if That’s Possible

The problem then becomes one of finding people who agree with this sentiment to be your officers.  Obviously it’s not that easy based upon the reports of abuse.  I would like to dismiss these (numerous as they are) as being big on profile but not on significance.  Guilds don’t post on the guild relations forum or write on blogs when everything is going swimmingly.  Nobody keeps statistics on things like guild lifetime or officer and member turnover, so it’s hard for us to look at “the most successful guilds” and emulate their ways.

To the larger WoW community, success equals progression, but there’s no evidence to suggest that top progression guilds have the best leadership practices.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find that most top progression guilds have a harsher leadership regime than many of us would be comfortable with – but that the members know that when they join and agree to fall in line because it gives the desired result.

I’m going to whip out the wide brush and paint guilds one of three colors:

  • guilds whose officers are the friends of the guild leader
  • guilds whose officers are simply the people willing to do the job
  • guilds whose officers are picked for their ability to do the job

There’s obviously some overlap here.  Just because you’re the friend of the guild leader doesn’t mean that you’re not capable of being a good officer and willing to put the extra time in.  Just because your guild leader doesn’t put much thought into who becomes an officer doesn’t mean that they won’t end up with a few good people in that role.  However, if you don’t take the third approach to selecting officers, then the experience for your members will be inconsistent at best.

You may have a really good recruiting officer who finds good candidates, answers all their questions before they apply, and helps shepherd them through the trial period.  Then they ask a question of the loot officer, who turns around and acts like a total tool.  Or perhaps the loot officer isn’t around, so they act another officer who doesn’t quite know all the ins and outs of the system.  They get bad information that leads them to make a mistake while in a raid.

Your Eyes, Ears and Mouth

Members expect that the guild leader is the ultimate source of information about the guild.  They should be able to answer any question or clarify any policy.  If the guild leader puts enough effort into making sure that policies are as complete and up-to-date as possible on the guild’s website, they might even be able to get away without having officers.  But as we all know, it’s all too easy to let policies and procedures fall into disrepair.  A friend recently applied to an ICC raiding guild whose application template asked her to list the raid dungeon keys and attunements she had!

The goal of an officer then is to provide a consistent experience for the members.  Officers should be able to answer the same way the guild leader would, or at least know where to send the member to get the right information.  It’s not their job to interpret or make up guild policy on the fly.

More Than a Proxy

“But wait!”, you say.  Officers do more than just act as dumb proxies.  Yes, they can.  I wrote a long time ago about the different things that officers can do.  If you read it, you’ll see that the jobs tend to split into leadership roles (GM heir/surrogate), proxy roles (loot officer / guild bank officer) and support roles (policy sounding board).  The different roles fit different personality types.  Those who would take advantage of positions of power should be relegated to support roles, or the proxy roles that do not carry with them higher privilege.  Those who consider their position to be one of service are better suited to the leadership and privileged access roles.

In my ideal guild, I’d only have people who considered the rank a service, and I’d swap people around from role to role every so often so that people didn’t get bored or burn out.  Different officer roles have different time commitments, and rotation not only balances the work but also gives you backups if someone leaves or is away.

If you’re not in a position to trust your officers equally, rotation is harder.  You may find it helpful to have junior and senior officers – perhaps only notionally.  Juniors rotate among the junior positions while senior can rotate anywhere.  I think most guilds end up with this kind of split whether they want to or not – you simply find that some officers are more active and trustworthy than others.

Codifying that difference is just a way of being more open with your members.  You want to avoid having the members only go to the senior officers with their questions though, so you may need your senior officers to redirect members to a junior officer if it’s their job to handle such matters.  If not, then you’re not playing to the strengths of your leadership team.  Juniors aren’t going to get better by being idle.

Why There is no LFO Channel

Assuming you agree with me on the type of person who should be an officer, you’re now faced with finding those people.  How do you interview someone for an officer position?  Assuming that the person has been in the guild for a while, you probably have some feel for their personality.  Perhaps they’ve raised some valid issues with policy in the past.

I would ask them to suggest a few things that they’d like to see leadership do or change.  The depth and nature of the changes they suggest will give you further insight.  Are the changes only things that benefit them, or their class/role?  Do they cite support for any of their ideas from other members?  Or is it just “change everything to be the way it was in my old guild”?

If the member has leadership in another guild, see if you can talk to one of their former guildmates.  Just like a raider trial period, anyone can talk a good game, but it’s the bridges they burned on the way to you that may prove more telling.

When it comes to your friends, you have to walk a thin line.  No matter what you do, some people will seize upon any perceived preferential treatment and cry out.  While this can happen regardless of the position your friend holds in the guild, you have to work extra hard to avoid the appearance of impropriety.  Since officers tend to be longer-lived members of the guild, look out for situations where it may not be immediately clear why someone is being chosen for special treatment.

I remember one of my guilds where an officer (who was the brother-in-law of the GM) won both Warglaives from Illidan.  He was the guild’s top rogue, had excellent attendance, and was respected in the guild.  Regardless of his rank, he would have been first in line for them.  The problem was that the specific method of dealing with legendary drops wasn’t written down in our loot policy.  The policy was effectively “guildmaster’s discretion”.  Someome who was new to the guild could be forgiven for thinking that his relationship and rank had something to do with him getting the drops.

Dealing With Abuses

Lastly, let’s talk about what to do when you peg someone incorrectly.  You thought they were officer material, but after a few weeks or months they’ve shown themselves to be abusive with power.  How do you handle the situation?  Are there measures you can take short of booting them?  Someone can be a very good raider but not a good officer, and it can be a shame to lose them if they can reassume their former position with dignity and grace.  Of course, if dignity and grace were their strong suits, you probably wouldn’t be faced with the problem in the first place.

There’s no hard and fast rule here.  Obviously you have to have a one-on-one talk with the person to air your concerns.  It helps to have some kind of documentation (screenshots from those who have complained are great).  I feel that once you’ve come to the point of having such a tank, some level of sanction is called for.

At the very least, an agreement to stop or be kicked for the first repeat offence.  At worst, an argument may come of the talk that demands a /gkick.  In the middle is demotion, which needs to be a mutual agreement.  If you force demotion on someone, you’re probably just going to foster a resentment, which can lead to sedition and eventual removal from the guild anyway.

If you do demote, make sure your members understand what has happened – don’t let them keep discovering it as they log on and look at the roster.  The same goes for a kick – you don’t have to go into details if you don’t want to (and depending on the behaviour of the ex-officer, being quite so open might be a bad thing).  Just a quick message in guildchat saying “I will explain on the forums” followed up by a short post explaining that you couldn’t come to an agreement that allowed the member to continue in the guild will suffice.

How do you go about picking your officers?  Do you interview former guildmates?  Do you split your officer ranks, or rotate responsibilities?  And if you’ve had to deal with abuses of power, how did you deal with it?  Have you ever forces a demotion on an officer and not come to regret it?

Until Next Time

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