Don’t Criticise, Condemn or Complain

This article is part of the series “How To Win /friends and Influence /guildies”.  See the introduction for more.

If you’re reading the original book alongside, this corresponds to Part 1, Chapter 1: “If You Want To Gather Honey, Don’t Kick Over the Beehive”

I must admit: I decided to start this series right after finishing the book.  Perhaps I should have re-read from the beginning first.  Don’t criticise?  Don’t complain?  How can I reconcile that with what I’ve written in the past?

The advice Carnegie gives here is to

remember [when dealing with people] that we are not dealing with creatures of logic.  We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures brisling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity[1]

Being the introductory chapter of the book, this advice doesn’t stand on it’s own.  Or rather, it is designed to make you realize that criticism, condemnation and complaining are not the only way to make someone do what you want them to.  Indeed, the examples in this chapter serve to show how the moment you start criticising someone, you put them on the defensive.  You make it harder for you to get your point across, and even if you eventually do you leave a resentment that will make future encounters with the person more difficult.

The obvious guild management situation here is failing to perform up to guild standards while raiding.  Some people are just better at it than others.  Those who aren’t will eventually contribute to a failed attempt on a boss.  If you know that the actions (or inactions) of an individual were the start of the failure, shouldn’t you call them on it?

Maybe.

Blaming Everyone but Themselves

The problem is that people who have done something wrong are often unaware that they have done so.  They may even have a justification that in their mind makes the failure not their fault.  One of your top DPS stays in the fire for a few seconds to take down an add that was going for a healer, not noticing that a offtank is moving to intercept.  The add dies, but leaves the DPS so low on health that an AoE effect kills them a few seconds later.  Robbed of several thousand DPS, the group then hits the hard enrage timer and wipes with 2% health remaining on the boss.

Unless specifically assigned otherwise, the job of DPS is to do as much damage as possible without stealing agro or taking excessive avoidable damage.  In the mind of the raid leader, the DPS screwed up.  In the mind of the DPS, they were protecting a critical member of the raid and their actions were justifiable.  Perhaps they even think it was the healer’s fault for not keeping them up through environmental damage, or that the tank should have called out that they were going to take care of the add.

Strictly speaking, the raid leader is right.  The job of protecting the healers from loose mobs nominally belongs to the tanks.  While a DPS helping out safely (slowing or snaring the add, putting some form of protection on the healer) is usually appreciated, doing so unsafely and getting yourself killed isn’t the way to handle things.

Why Not To Criticize

The raid leader can now go and chew out the DPS member (publicly or privately).  Will it make the raid leader feel better?  Maybe.  Will it help the DPS get better?  Probably not.  The DPS probably realizes what they did.  You should know your raiders well enough that there won’t be a repeat of the incident.

But what if you don’t know the DPS player well, or you’re concerned that they will do the same thing again?  Surely you have to highlight that to them – otherwise you’re just going to waste everyone else’s time when the group wipes again.

So how do you reconcile this advice to not criticise with the pragmatic task of leading a WoW raid?  Well, the first hint is to not use a single chapter of the book or this series as guidance.  Future articles will go in depth on ways to get someone to do what you want them to do without them being on the receiving end of a tirade first.

It’s that tirade you need to avoid.  It’ s all too easy to go off the deep end with someone, making them feel as though the entire wipe was their fault.  As anyone who’s been raiding for a while knows, you can try to find out where a wipe started, but the further back in time you go, the harder it becomes to say that one person made everything go pear shaped.  Little mistakes happen all the time, and so long as someone else makes some kind of correction, they go unnoticed.  The boss dies, and everyone is happy.

It’s only when the correction is missed and the mistake is compounded that you start to set up for a wipe.  So whose fault was it?  The person who made the mistake that could have been corrected, or the person who failed to correct?  Or the raid leader who didn’t notice the mistake and call for a correction?  If you recorded every attempt and went over the footage with a fine-toothed comb you might be able to answer that question, but I doubt anyone has the time or inclination to do so.

Calling out the one person you think is responsible can do a lot of things, but what it won’t do is make the person more relaxed and capable of focusing on the job at hand.  It brings emotions and hurt pride into the picture, and from there things just go downhill quickly.

I will give you one alternate approach: rather than telling someone how badly they did something that it wasn’t their job to do, compliment someone else on the way they handled the job, and ask them to keep it up.  In our hypothetical above, you can compliment the offtank who did take care of the add.  Make sure that’s done publicly and the DPS should realize that it’s not their job to do it next time.

Criticising Addons

One word before I wrap up on addons that call people out.  I’m taking of FailBot and EnsidiaFails.  Is an automated whisper from EnsidiaFails the same as directed criticism from the raid leader?  Probably not.  The difference is how the raid leader uses the information.  If anyone who fails (including the raid leader) is treated the same, then such addons are useful tools.  If some people’s fails are called to light while others slide by, then the usefulness rapidly drops off.

Exacerbating the problem is that some failures are reported falsely.  If you’ve ever lost a tank in an Onyxia PUG when someone is running EnsidiaFails, you’ll be familiar with the spam of people “failing” to avoid flame breath.  Getting in front of Ony’s legs when she’s being tanked is a failure – getting breathed on because she’s spinning around after the tank dies is not.  You can indicate to the addon that it should stop detecting failures until combat stops, but I don’t see people using this in a timely or consistent fashion.

Next thursday, we’ll delve into chapter 2: The Big Secret of Dealing with People.

This article is part of the series “How To Win /friends and Influence /guildies”.  See the introduction for more.

[1] Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People.  (1936), pp.13

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