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Confessions of a Guild Leader: Handling a Problematic Raider

I read the WoW officer forums frequently, and one issue that comes up periodically is how to deal with someone who isn’t carrying their weight in your raids, particularly when it’s not an enormously glaring problem but instead a bunch of little things that add up to a bigger pain in the rear. If the person is otherwise liked and the issues don’t seem so dramatic taken individually, it can be genuinely difficult to be decisive about handling it. And while this might be a non-issue for a raiding guild, where you either do your job or you’re benched (or booted), in a social guild it’s much more of a challenge to resolve. Objective assessment gets overruled by feelings, and typically the entire raid group has an opinion about the situation. I have dealt with this recently myself and this time around I approached it in a different way than I have in the past. Given that it was resolved without any drama, I thought I’d share.

The member involved is the real life friend of one of my officers – we’ll call him Lad for ease of storytelling. Lad and a few other friends heard about our rapid progression through the early Cataclysm content (tier 11) and decided they’d like to join us. This presented the first issue, since the timing coincided with our final preparations for Firelands and we were essentially done running tier 11, except for heroic modes. The guild was not going to be offering any gearing up raids since we were all focused on Firelands. While I am happy to integrate toons that are already geared, I’ve never been amenable to people who expect us to stop our forward progression so that we can catch them up to us. So when Lad and his friends joined the guild and asked to be geared up, I told them we wouldn’t be doing that. I had just announced that we were done with tier 11. I was sorry for their unfortunate timing, but I had 27 raiders geared and going forward.

This actually caused quite a bit of non-trivial drama, not amongst Lad and his friends (maybe they were too cautious to create a loud fuss directly), but instead through their friend, my officer. He was conflicted by the confusing propaganda being thrown about by another officer – the one who created our year-long drama and was eventually kicked out – and wanted to impress his friends and provide for them. He didn’t understand my decision and thus didn’t agree with it; he felt the guild should provide gearing up since there was someone interested in it. I disagree on principle. It is easier than ever in WoW’s history to gear up on your own and is simply a matter of personal effort. Not wanting to take the time to run heroics in order to get gear and points is just laziness. If you won’t make the effort to prepare for the level of raid you’d like to raid at, how will you contribute to the raid itself? Eventually I was able to convince my officer of the reasoning here, but it was the first glimmer of conflicts to come.

As the months passed and Lad gained gear, other issues cropped up. He didn’t want to read the website for information or strats, or research the changes to his class and to gear in general. I recall one debate over the fact that armor type was now of high priority –  there is a 5% bonus to the primary stat for your spec if you wear all of the “correct” armor type for your class. For example, shamans wear mail, but can also wear leather or cloth. However, they do not get the stat bonus if they are wearing anything except for mail armor. This is a direct change from how gearing went in Wrath of the Lich King, when the stats on a piece of gear were what mattered, not the armor type, and you might see holy paladins rolling on cloth gear because it was an itemization upgrade for them. Still convinced that a gear upgrade was a gear upgrade was a gear upgrade, Lad argued with me when I told him that leather boots were not acceptable for a mail-wearing class. He wasn’t geared enough to be raiding yet anyway, so I advised him to do his homework and then dropped the subject, but I found it odd that he was trying to impress me with his gear (the reason the topic came up) and then when I pointed out the lack, he argued with me about it. This was just one of several minor issues that arose over the months (the game-changing new Spirit Link Totem caused another big debate when he scoffed at it), and though there was never any serious drama, there wasn’t exactly harmony either.

Eventually Lad got his gear in order and joined us in Firelands. His friends decided the gearing process was too much work and wandered away or transferred off the server. Lad, however, was welcomed as any other raider, an integral part of the team. For the most part things went really well. He learned the fights quickly, as well as his role in them. He was a strong healer. But odds and ends things cropped up – frequently asking for BOE epics for his offspecs which he doesn’t play. Deciding to go party on a raid night, which left the team struggling to find a healer to replace him. Talk of watching sports on tv during raid time – again, not something that is acceptable during highly-tuned fights with an intense raid awareness factor. In an intangible way, he didn’t ever really sync with the team, despite being accepted by everyone.

And then the team made it to Ragnaros. Unfortunately, the fight has not come easily and they are still struggling to down that boss. Part of the problem has been inconsistent attendance – when you get different players every time, the team has to start the learning process all over again each night. Constant composition changes and knowledge of the fight itself seriously impacts progression. This has resulted in weeks of wiping on one fight.

Lad has not really been enjoying this. I mean, no one likes wiping, but it’s part and parcel of progression – something you just have to accept as part of raiding. Still, Lad seems to be one who feels frustrated with every wipe, even if it’s his mistake that caused it. Rather than viewing it as a team learning process, he feels the raid should stop on a high note once we advance a little, even if it means ending early – a choice that feels like “giving up” to the rest of the team.

In the meantime, Lad’s other friends have been trying to lure him to the server they moved to because they need a healer. He talked about transferring to join them, but that sent the friend who is still here – the officer – into a flurry of rage, accusing Lad of using him and our guild to get gear. Though it certainly feels that way, I admit that there was a part of me that was unwilling to interfere with Lad’s decision or try to convince him that he should stay. And when he decided to leave a raid early in a subsequent week, weary again of wiping, my ambivalence towards his leaving was finally substantiated. He abandoned his team when they had twenty minutes left of the raid and had gotten further than ever before on the fight. I’ve led raids for three years and have seen many nights just like this end in success in the last 10 minutes of raid time. The truth is that Lad is not committed to that team. It was time for me to take action.

Leaving a raid early for non-emergency reasons is grounds for benching. Leaving the raid early because you’re tired of wiping is grounds for being removed from the raid roster. I can’t be certain what his actual reasons were for leaving early, though he’d been complaining about the raid for at least an hour before he left. Still, that’s enough reasonable doubt to avoid the harsher penalty, and instead I sent him an email warning him that if it happened again he’d be removed from the team. I explained that emergencies or angry parents/spouses were good reasons to leave, but just deciding that you’re tired of raiding is unacceptable. If you can’t commit, don’t raid. He read this letter, we chatted a bit, and he agreed that he understood where I was coming from and it wouldn’t happen again.

And then it happened again anyway, the following week. He was simply not playing to par, making a ton of mistakes and causing the team to wipe again and again. I was not raiding with them, though I was online during the raid, and the person who was leading finally contacted me to tell me what problems were occurring and that he had suggested Lad leave for the night since he clearly wasn’t up to raiding. Fortunately I was able to step in to replace him this time, but the hour they’d spent wiping due to Lad’s slack had taken its toll. Lad’s only offered excuse was that he was tired and wasn’t much into raiding that night.

At this point I benched him from further attempts on Ragnaros, with notice that I was considering whether I would even let him participate in any further progression. I assured him that I wasn’t angry with him – I’m not – but that I feel that this time period clearly doesn’t work for him. The team deserves full commitment from its members and he just can’t give it. And then I pointed out that I have always encouraged people to do what they enjoy the most in the game, and that if he was still interested in transferring off to play with his friends I wouldn’t think less of him for it. Yes, it leaves us in a bit of a lurch (I didn’t tell him that), but it is easier for me to try to find a replacement than to cope with damage control every week. Within a day or two he left the guild, on a good note and with nice farewells.

It’s easy to feel angry and even indignant about the time you invest in a raid member, from learning, to gear – perhaps even really premium gear that they won over another player – when that member decides to leave or quit, thus abandoning the team. But how you handle the situation can have an enormous effect on how much of an impact it makes on your guild. Part of the reason that this went so smoothly, I think, is because I didn’t attack him on a personal level or belittle him in any way. I didn’t accuse him of wrong-doings or imply that he owed us anything, I simply pointed out that our raid times obviously don’t work for him, since he gets tired before the time is up. While getting enough sleep might be more important to him than raiding, the expectation of the entire team is that they will commit to the full duration of the raid time.

I am also very careful about communicating my rules and expectations in writing, and am comfortable about falling back on those rules, reminding my members that they’re not optional and that they agreed to abide them when they joined us. If Lad had been angry or hostile about being benched, I would have quoted from those rules – they’re posted on our website – and stuck to my guns, firmly but politely. In the end, the written word is your best defense.

Fortunately, he was not hostile and the entire issue was resolved without any drama or ill-feeling at all. Of course, it does leave a hole in my second raid team, but that’s already filling itself with alts from the first team, eager for more raid time. Speaking of which, I need to put this away and go raid!

Have a great week!

~ Alora

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