Feb 8, 2012

Posted by in Council Chambers | 2 Comments

Council Chambers: Take Me To Your Leader

Council Chambers is all about the ins and outs of guild leadership in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Each week, we’ll look at running and managing a guild through good times, bad times and everything in between.  

Hello, and welcome to this week’s Council Chambers. We took January a bit “off” in terms of our primary purpose of guild leadership and advice, to spend some time focusing on new or prospective guild leaders and officers and cover some basics about how to start a guild and look for people to help you with that project. This week, it’s back to our core mission of working with guild leaders, officers, or members to help solve their guild challenges and dilemmas.

Chief of Staff

Since we ended our last entry talking about officers, I’ve decided to pick up again with an inquiry that concerns guild officers – and in particular, officer burnout. Overworked writes,

I’m having a blast playing SWTOR, but after just two weeks, I’m getting a little something like burn out due to my guild. This guild has been a labor of love for me, and was truly driven during the pre-game to create something special that would attract tons of members and be a really successful guild to last for years to come.

Even though I’m not the GM, I was the one in the forums trying to create energy for the guild, get members involved in creating the guidelines, decide how the guild would work and interact with the rest of the community. Now, the game has launched, and on top of all the work that goes into setting up the guild, I’ve discovered that no one was doing anything to recruit – so I’ve taken up that job as well, spamming in general to help grow our membership. I feel like I’m running the whole guild by myself, and even though it’s small right now, I feel like there’s a ton of work to be done if we want it to succeed.

Am I making a mountain out of a molehill here, or is there something I can do to encourage the others to step up? How do you cure officer apathy?

Officer apathy, officer burnout, officer inactivity – while these may all happens for different reasons, the end result is often the same. There’s still a ton of work that needs doing for the guild – recruitment, forums maintenance, scheduling, roster maintenance, member management, plus any other activities that the guild runs – but for whatever reason, there are fewer hands on deck working on it. This often results in those remaining officers shouldering more and more of the work to keep the guild afloat – and the frequent result of that is even more officer burnout, as those officers become overwhelmed and can no longer keep up.

So, what’s an overworked officer to do?

Crux of the Matter

Well, the tricky thing with the above is that it also includes another problem, perhaps one that the reader didn’t even consider when writing the above. In particular, the concern is this line: “Even though I’m not the GM…” The second part of our entry next week will discuss GM strategies on how to help motivate officers in down times, but unfortunately – the majority of those do in fact rely on the Big Boss for a variety of reasons. The unfortunate reality here is – the guild leader, and only the guild leader – is in a position to promote new officers, demote inactive ones, develop productivity expectations or meet with their officers. As a peer and fellow officer, you’re limited in what you can do with respect to the other officers, in both good and bad ways. So – that right there is the first problem to tackle in the above.

Hanlon’s Razor

Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence” – N. Bonaparte

There may be a lot of reasons why the actual guild leader isn’t really able to fill their responsibilities to the guild right now. He or she may have had a family emergency or some other sort of off-line issue that’s taking up their time and focus and preventing them from really engaging. They may be suffering burnout themselves, but not know how to deal with it – or fear telling the members, for fear of letting them down. Sometimes, people wind up in leadership positions that just aren’t equipped with good organizational or management skills to really fill that role, and they could be in over their head. (This is why I recommend thinking about these things before getting that charter!)  Unfortunately, until you ask – you have no way to know. And you know what they say about assuming…

Assuming

Before even dealing with the officer burnout and the lack of officer assistance, Overworked, you need to sit down and talk to your guild leader. See if you can set up a time to talk to them in your method of choice – I personally would recommend in voice chat or in game, rather than through PMs, if possible, because that lends itself better to a conversation rather than a maxim. Talk to him or her about how much work you’ve wound up taking on, and how hard it’s been, and ask them for their help or guidance – or worst case, which parts they will take on and do themselves or assign to someone else and help reduce your work load.

It’s quite possible that the guild leader doesn’t even realize how much you’re doing. From a managerial standpoint, if nothing appears broken – recruiting is getting done, work is getting done – then they don’t know it needs fixing. By your picking up all of this work, the end result is that nothing is falling through the cracks, and that may mean that the guild leader doesn’t even know how broken the current system really is. So first and foremost, you need to make sure they do.

Diplomacy

I would say aim for an approach that is dispassionate but firm. Don’t go into this discussion angry, scared, or on the offensive or defensive. Try to separate yourself from the frustrations, and just present the facts – and make very clear that the current situation is not acceptable, and needs to be improved. Be clear about what you need to help manage your own workload (for instances, which aspects you would like to keep as an officer, and which you cannot continue) – this provides the guild leader not only with the problem, but potential solutions so they know how to start addressing the issues. Always helpful! Also, make sure to try and nail down a follow up meeting or update, if you can – specifically, don’t allow yourself to wind up in the situation of presenting the issue but having nothing ultimately change in terms of what you wind up doing.

From there, see how things go. Give the guild leader a little time (I’d say maybe a week to start, then check back in). You’ll have a better sense by then of what is being done to address the issue. If the leader did not realize the problem, you’ll now be able to see once they were made aware whether they take action or not.

It is unfortunately possible that the leader may do nothing (see above quote) – and in that case, my advice would be to find a new guild. Doing the guild leader’s job if you are not the guild leader is a bad situation all around – bad for the leader who gets the credit without the work, bad for the members in terms of knowing who to go to with concerns or for help, and bad for the officers busting their tails but without the authority they need to manage things. If this does turn out to be the case, think about if you’d like to be the guild leader for a new effort. After all, you’ve developed some on-the-job experience, right? If not, then research out other guilds on your server and see if there is one that’s a better fit for your playstyle and with better management.

Our hope though, is that the guild leader is receptive – that they were not aware (or perhaps aware but not sure how to handle) the situation, rather than unwilling to fix it. Happily, this is far more often the case than the above scenario. In this event, your guild leader will work with you to come up with a solution that helps both you and the guild – and overall, the communication will go a long way towards strengthening your own relationship with the guild leader, plus giving you a little break in terms of work load.

So – first and foremost, before you are even in a position to tackle the officer burnout issues that are the primary reason for writing, you need to really raise these issues to your guild leader and talk to him or her about them, openly and honestly. See if they will help or start doing more of what really is their job, and then plan your own strategy from there. If he or she is willing to help, then work closely with them to try and incorporate the officers more into the project! We will go into more depth on ways and strategies for doing that next week. If he or she is unhelpful or not receptive, then think about if a new guild might be a better fit and whether you’d be happier staying in the situation you are under the circumstances you have now, or if you would do better in a guild that required less of your time and effort to manage. Or, perhaps, if you’re going to do all that work to run a guild, if maybe it’s time to try that for real?

Thanks for writing, and best of luck. Next week, we’ll cover some more tips on burnout and how to help avoid it, or manage it when you run into it and are in a position to do so! Until then, have fun and keep writing in with your guild advice questions! /salute


  1. It’s also worth considering whether the guild “vision” of the GM and the officer match up.

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