Guild Guide: Avoiding Drama and Needless Guild Conflict

Where does guild drama spring from, and what are the best ways to try and make sure that drama is deflected before it seriously starts?
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I’m going to put a thesis here that is probably painfully obvious to everyone here: no one explicitly likes guild drama.

Yes, there are definitely people who cause and spread guild drama wherever they go, like a side form of Johnny Appleseed that spreads naught but pain and misery.  I will not pretend those people don’t exist.  But if you ask them outright, they will tell you that they hate guild drama, that they don’t ever want to spread it, and that they’re incredibly upset about the large amount of guild drama that always springs up around them.  Heck, most of the people who just spread these messes see themselves as unfair victims of circumstance.

Yet it’s pretty obvious to anyone that drama is not simply random, as implied by the fact that as mentioned, there are some people who just seem to generate it.  So what does cause drama?  Are these people fated to forever be sources of conflict?

The good news is that they are not, but the bad news is that some people would kind of prefer for guild drama to perpetuate, because it’s a familiar and comprehensible state of affairs.  Because they want things to go their way, they’d rather force a change than leave, and they can’t just let it go.

Dealing with conflict

Turns out we cannot, in fact, just get along.90% of the time, conflict between guild members, guild officers, or members and officers isn’t something that needs to go any further than acknowledgment.  There have been people in every single guild that I’ve been a part of that I haven’t liked, whether it was a guild I founded, a guild I became an officer within, or just a guild wherein I was a rank-and-file member.  And my method of dealing with it has evolved over the years, but I very quickly learned that the best way to deal with members that I don’t like is to just leave them alone.

This is pretty reasonable if you think about it – do you really think Jay is going to change his whole personality because you shout at him on the internet?  Especially if people like Jay?  Far more productive to just let Jay do his thing and keep out of situations that could bring you into further conflict.

Obviously, in certain groups you cannot avoid that conflict.  If you’re part of a competitive League of Legends amateur team and there are only five of you in the group, you will have to deal with one another on a regular basis.  But if you can’t manage to leave someone you don’t like alone, your best option is to leave.  No matter your position of authority, if you just don’t like someone and start looking for reasons why they shouldn’t be around, you’re already making a pretty big mistake.  Let it go.  Deflect conflict by never getting that conflict started in the first place.

When leaving isn’t an option

The core point I’m making here is not that leaving solves everything, it’s that the best way to avoid guild drama is to see it coming and head it off at the pass.  Don’t make officers out of people who aren’t on board with your vision for the guild.  Don’t get into fights over disliking someone’s personality or playstyle so long as it’s not directly affecting you.  And for the love of everything, if a conflict does arise, hand it off to someone else at the first possible opportunity.

Especially as an officer, the temptation to deal with these issues yourself is enormous.  You really dislike Sasha, after all, and now Sasha is apparently stealing loot after boss fights, and you trust the person telling you this.  Time to come down hard on her, right?

Wrong.  You should not be involved.  You should be able to recognize that as someone who dislikes Sasha, you have no ability to be useful in this situation.  Any decisions you make are tainted by your existing dislike of the player, and as far as her friends are concerned you were at best unreasonably harsh and at worst basically grinding an axe with her through abuse of your position.  That’s what starts the sort of drama that kills guilds dead.

I mentioned last week that you should have a method of dealing with breaking the guild rules, and this is part of the reason.  It’s not just about the trouble of relying upon chance and mood; it’s about making sure that whether you like someone or not, there is a procedure followed for every player, absolutely, no questions asked.  It’s consistent and reliable.

Let's all try to be on the same side.  Just for giggles, you know.

Deal with this now

Of course, the odds are that whatever caused you to reach this point was not the first report that Sasha was stealing loot.  No, it was probably a longstanding dislike of Sasha based around disliking her roleplaying style or her character’s name or her way of typing or whatever.  It doesn’t actually matter.  What matters is that you addressed the issue after it festered.

I watched some slow-acting roleplaying drama destroy a guild I quite liked once.  The leader appointed two officers, among others, who wanted a far more structured approach to the guild and had very clear ideas about the sorts of stories they wished to run.  The leader wanted the former but not the latter, but instead of addressing that when it started happening, she remained silent for months.  Enough time for stories that she wasn’t entirely on board with to move from being “early and removable threads” to being a big part of what kept the guild together.

No, I’m not saying that she could have instantly fixed everything by telling those officers that she didn’t like their direction.  But if she had at least raised the issue at the time, things could have been done, and if the officers were dead-set on their course she could have taken action then.  Allowing delayed conflicts to set in only means that by the time the argument actually happens, it’s far more explosive.

“But didn’t you just say to leave things alone?” you ask.  And that’s true, I did.  The difference comes from knowing what arguments are worth having and what ones are just personality conflicts.

Understand the problems: “Is my issue trivial?”

This guy didn't deal well with drama, and look!  Now he is a skeleton.  Don't be this guy.I do not particularly care for Skyrim.  If the only thing you talk about in guild chat is how great Skyrim is, I am probably not going to like you all that much.  But there isn’t any argument to be had there.  You like a game, I don’t, it’s pretty much harmless for us to disagree over that.  Starting an argument over that would be creating drama, because it has no bearing on the game or us working together.

I also don’t have a whole lot of patience for people who are told a fight strategy in an MMO and then ignore it.  If I tell you “don’t move when the boss does X,” and the first thing you do when the boss does X is start moving, we’ve got an issue.  That discussion is worth having.  It doesn’t relate to you as a person, unless you have a deep-seated religious need to countermand directions in content; it’s about the game, how you operate therein, and how it affects your fellow players.

So that needs to be taken as part and parcel of any drama situations – understanding that not all conflicts are of equal importance or need to be afforded the same weight.  Just disliking someone does not in and of itself mean that you should start a fight.  Resolving actual issues quickly and doing your best to avoid the people you don’t like, though, goes a long way toward deflecting big conflicts before they get started.

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