Guild Guide: Dealing with problem officers in your guild, group, or clan

It's not always the members who are the problem - sometimes it's the people in charge.

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The upside of dealing with problematic members in a group is that you always have a secret weapon - the officers.  If someone is really proving to be more trouble than they're worth, an officer can always wish them well and possibly suggest what they should or should not do vis-a-vis the door and the soon-to-be-former member's rear.  

Which is great!  Until the problem that you're dealing with is the fact that the member who gives you so much trouble is the officer.

Officers, by definition, set the tone of the group. 

If there are three officers in a small guild in World of Warcraft, odds are good to absolute that all three of them are crucial to the running of that guild.  More than likely, they founded it and built it in the first place.  So on some level, there's the obvious element that if you don't like the officers you should probably leave the guild altogether; you are there to be a part of this group, and asking those officers to change for you is kind of like coming in on the second reel of a movie and then demanding that it be a movie you like better.

But that doesn't mean that every officer is actually a boon to their guild.  Officers are people just like any other, and it is eminently possible to have even a founding member of a guild turn out to be harmful to the group as a whole.  So, just like last time, let's take a look at some of the most commonly encountered problematic officer types and how you can deal with them.

I AM THE BOSS YOU DO WHAT I SAY NOW

The autocrat

You know those people who say, "I'm sorry, I don't make the rules"?  The autocrat is the sort of person who says that just after he makes the rule, and then he screams at you for breaking the rule. 

To these people, being in charge is fun because it means you get to bark orders at everyone and you get to make all of the decisions, and in the worst cases their "rules" are just whatever makes them feel most powerful at any given moment.

The bright side of officers like this - yes, there is a bright side - is that they are the people best suited to deal with disagreements, because they're willing to wade in with a hammer and lay down the law.  This is, in fact, an advantage.  Unfortunately, dealing with them at any other time is a bit of a problem, as they will decide what they want to have happen without any regard for the people involved, as their goal is to be the biggest kid on the metaphorical playground.

Dealing with this sort of officer is something best brought up with another officer, but if that's not an option your best bet is to speak with the officer in private and explain your issues.  If they use that as the pretense to start trying to drum you out of the group, leave immediately.  Most officers who've gone on the autocratic side are doing so out of a need to have a strong hand; if that need is personal rather than guild-wide, nothing but disappointment awaits you in the future.

One big happy family that is not big, happy, or a family.

The cronyist

Officers in a guild should be able to stand one another.  It's probably even for the best if they're friends.  But you can run into problems when the officer core becomes more like a clubhouse, with a very small number of people all covering for one another.  That's what cronyism is - appointing friends and companions to high-authority positions regardless of their qualifications - and the cronyist is an officer whose behavior centers around doing precisely that.  Their method of operation is to be surrounded by friends in the officer corps, regardless of whether or not those friends are qualified, and to be surrounded by friends who will vouch for them no matter the circumstances.

The problem here is that the whole point of having multiple officers is in making sure that everyone has a check or two in place.  The guild leader has other officers scrutinizing their decisions, the lesser officers are being watched by the other officers, and so forth.  If everyone is basically just patting one another on the back, you don't get any sense that anyone who isn't part of the elite officer in-club has a voice.

If the entrenched power structure isn't actively malicious, this might not be a huge problem - it's often enough to bring up your concerns and ask, politely, that the officer lineup shift slightly.  This becomes really problematic when you're dealing with an officer who falls victim to one of the other problems on that list with friends who will defend them endlessly.  At that point, it's probably time to move on; you can't trust the people in control, and you can't trust them to make changes when needed.

I can't help but notice we're a bit thin on attendance.

The absentee

I'm just going to let Cake explain this one for me.  Except less about a romantic relationship and more about, you know, an officer never being there.

Usually, officers who just sort of check out do so because they see their duty as one of putting out fires; if there are no fires to worry about, they don't need to stick around.  Which is a reasonable idea, but the fact is that officers do more than just show up and fix squabbles.  They provide direction to the group, keep members engaged, and generally give everyone a place to rally around.  When an officer is never there, well... you're deprived of all that.

Fortunately, this is honestly the easiest sort of problem officer to deal with.  Very few officers who have largely checked out are going to take it as a personal assault if you point out that they're never around.  Most will either step down and let someone else take over or simply show up a little more often.  Either one works, in the long run.

That's right, blow it up.  I want to see what will happen.

The ego

Some officers don't seek power just so they can have a power trip; they seek power because they want to have their point of view validated.  While the autocrat wades into problems with a hammer, the egotistical officer doesn't wade anywhere; they declare their point of view and more or less dare anyone to speak otherwise.  Or they don't even state a point of view, just stake out their claim as the king of the hill and knock around anyone who steps out of line.

These officers can be almost invisible for long stretches of time, because so long as you're one of the people they like, you don't have to pay any attention to it.  For this officer, the only rule is that they're always right, and if you challenge that or they don't like you too much, you're out.  There's no appeal or discussion, because there's nothing to discuss - either you are friends or you are enemies.

Of course, to point out the problem is to also point out the major issue with addressing it - trying to confront this officer just puts you into the enemy category.  Assuming that you want to stick around, your best bet in this case is honestly to just avoid this offcier as much as humanly possible, because there's no configuration of words that will convince someone engaged in proving how great they are that they're worse for getting into that mindset.  It's also not a bad idea to bring up the behavior with another officer, but be forewarned that this sort of officer will try to poison the well before you can do so.  (They figure you'll do it first, after all.)

Unfortunately, when dealing with bad or untrustworthy officers, you don't have the power in the relationship.  You have to take a gentle touch, and at times, recognize that your best option is to move on rather than fight out a conflict that you're just not going to win.  Which isn't pleasant, but neither is staying in a group when you're not welcome.

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Published Apr. 24th 2015

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