Lots of guilds have a troublemaker. Someone who doesn’t quite fit in. Someone who challenges the leadership. Someone who causes drama. Someone who causes trouble for the group.
I actually hate the term troublemaker. Usually if someone is making waves or seems to be causing friction, it isn’t because they are bad to the bone at all. And I’ve heard too many guild leaders dismiss genuine complaints or concerns as, “Lol, ignore him, he’s just a troublemaker”. (Or even “get rid of X, she’s a troublemaker”).
I find it very dehumanising. It’s far too easy to dismiss any issues your guild might have by inventing a fictional troublemaker persona whose only desire is to upset honest guild leaders and cause guild drama, and then project it onto someone who is challenging the leadership. It’s also easy to be so precious about your leadership role that anyone who doesn’t agree with you on anything is immediately ‘a troublemaker’.
I’m going to look at some of the reasons why people might act like troublemakers.
Laws of the Playground
Social groups/ guilds in game are largely built around cliques. That’s both a strength and a weakness, a strong core group is the basis of a strong guild. But cliques are all about the ‘us and them’, the inclusiveness and exclusiveness. So as soon as a guild starts to form into cliques, people will start feeling around for who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’.
There’s very little anyone can do to control this process. Fel Fire has written some insightful posts about cliques in guilds where she concludes that they can be both good and bad, and also that even people inside the clique can feel excluded from another part of the guild.
It is miserable to feel excluded, and to feel that you’re being cut out of game fun because of not being friends with the right people. This doesn’t excuse acting up and ruining other people’s entertainment, but a little compassion goes a long way.
Someone who is fretting about not feeling part of the in-group will only be happy if the clique accepts them (unlikely), or if they can find a group of their own. And this may be easier in a different guild. Sometimes too many bridges have been burned.
What about people who just want to be heard?
Sometimes people will challenge the leadership because they have good ideas (or they think the leadership made a poor decision) and would like to help. How a guild deals with this comes down to whether it has an atmosphere in which members are encouraged to give feedback or not.
A lot of people don’t enjoy being challenged. A lot of guild leaders in game are either young or inexperienced in leading in any other setting. So they quash any disagreement viciously, and may even take it personally.
WoWInsider even has an article/rant where they basically tell people who have disagreements with their raid leaders to either shut up or get off the bus. How dare you disagree! Are you a troublemaker, citizen? Are you trying to rock the boat? You’re not the one who is doing all the work.
A lot of guild or raid leaders would nod at this. And even the ones who welcome debate will tell you that there is a time and a place, and in the middle of a progression raid is not the place for a long debate about DKP rules. So sometimes people can be marked as troublemakers because they choose to bring their input to the leadership in an inappropriate way. Not everyone has great social skills or practice at working in a group environment. But not everyone who does this is a troublemaker either.
Some people just want to know that their views are heard and not dismissed out of hand. It’s a way of trying to feel part of the team, and a leader who handles it constructively can even help foster a new officer further down the line.
Guilds are often in need of new raid leaders or officers, it helps prevent burnout to share the workload around. A player who takes enough of an interest to offer feedback and wants to engage in debate could become that raid leader in future.
The struggle for control
The flipside of this is people who challenge the guild leadership because they also feel that they have a stake in leading the guild. Perhaps there are founder members who have been there for a long time. Perhaps they are already officers and help to run part of the guild.
If you run a democratic/ team style guild then this barely raises an eyebrow. It’s a good thing if players are actively engaging with the guild and not just logging on like moggadon men to fill their raid roles in silence. Players can be encouraged to direct their energy towards running raids on off nights or organising other events — they can have some event that they personally ‘own’ that will also help the guild.
eg. OK, you think the guild isn’t doing enough 10 man raids. That’s fair enough, but I really don’t have time or energy to run them. Would you be interested in doing that on a non-25 man night?
Sometimes it’s as simple as just not standing in their way. “What? X organised a 10 man raid on a non-25 man night without asking my permission???” “Oh well, maybe that’s a good thing. Nice one, X. Do you need a healer?”
Most people who just want more of a stake in their guild will be happy with this. And it can be a win-win situation. More events for the guild = happier players.
Some guilds or raids have a more dictatorial style. Some players may also not have realised that their guild actually is a dictatorial one — it can come as a shock if you thought you were in a more democratic setup.
And equally, some challenging players want more of a stake than it is possible to give. Also, some people think they want to run events but find later that it is more work than they thought, or they go spare if not enough people sign up.
Once you get to this point, it’s almost always better for the person to leave gracefully and go find another guild. Because they won’t get what they want from the current one.
So, people may challenge the leadership for different reasons. Perhaps they feel excluded from a clique, perhaps they genuinely want to help, perhaps they want to take more of a stake in the guild (and these are not mutually exclusive).
But sometimes they are just miserable because they’re burned out and bored, and clutching at straws for things they can do to try to make the game more fun for them.
And the only answer to burnout is to take a break. As a guild leader, you can try to handle this gracefully. If the person deserves the benefit of the doubt, leave them an opening to come back. Things are never quite the same after a bout of burnout but they can be fine. People can rearrange their game priorities and try to avoid any drama happening again.
This is another case where a little compassion will help. And in this case, leaving the guild really won’t solve any problems for people.
Should I stay or should I go?
As general advice, if you find that you have major issues with guild leadership, it’s time to think about leaving. It doesn’t matter if you are an officer or a founder member. It doesn’t matter if you are right or wrong. The amount of drama that you’d have to cause to get anything to change is likely not worth it. And no one will thank you for it either.
Life isn’t fair. But sometimes you owe it to yourself to get out of an environment that will only make you miserable. I’ve been this kind of troublemaker, and I was happier once I left.
And guild leaders: Don’t be too quick to label people as assholes or troublemakers. They may have valid points that they are bringing in inappropriate ways. They may just be miserable. It doesn’t mean that you’re wrong to deal with them swiftly but don’t be too quick to take it personally. And sometimes dealing with them may just mean sitting down to listen.