Today I left my guild

Today I left my guild.

This decision has been months in the coming and yet, even now, I find myself struggling to type it out. There’s a mental block. A stubborn and insistent demand that maybe, if I don’t say anything about it, the issue will go away. But intellectually, I know this is not the case. I’ve been unhappy for months now, I cannot let fear of the unknown stop me. I am writing this out now, posting it for the whole wide internet to see not because I am angry and not because I want revenge, but because I need to get this off for my own sake. And I need to do it right.

Four years of faithful member and officership.

Over four years ago, I joined a brand new guild established on the idea of connecting the then WoW Insider, now Blizzard Watch fans. I was quickly made an officer, although back then, the guild didn’t have nearly as much structure as it does now. We were honestly more excited that the guild had even gotten off the ground than anything else.

The next year was a honeymoon period. The guild continued to grow and, with the help of the other officers (the corps was now being more established), I helped run social events and coordinate out of game communication. Everything was friendly and perfect and fun, and I know this is the image of the guild that is forever frozen in my mind. When the act of logging in could put an instant smile on my face.

An expansion came and went and eventually, our little guild decided to adventure into raiding. As is unavoidable, the switch from a purely social guild to a raiding social guild was a little bumpy and there was some hiccups along the path. But overall, the transition went incredibly smoothly and I finally got a chance to raid in an organized fashion for the first time. A bit later on and I found myself raid leading for the first time. Everything was fantastic.

Another expansion flew by, and our little guild started shifting again, this time in a direction I wasn’t so keen on. The leadership aspect, which I had always been a part of, started narrowing down to a few certain individuals calling the shots. Areas that used to fall under my responsibility were taken away from me, and I started hearing about big guild changes at the same time as the rest of the guild rather than ahead of time as seemed sensible for an officer.

When I brought up these frustrations, I was at first brushed off. Then, I was screamed at.

That should have been my warning.

But it wasn’t.

I told myself that I had so many other friends in the guild who made it worthwhile, so if I just played my cards right, everything would be ok. Tensions would smooth out. I would be able to talk to certain officers openly again. The honeymoon period would return.

In hindsight, I can see how ridiculous this all sounds, but at the time – and even a bit now – I was afraid of change. Afraid of leaving a guild full of all the people I knew in game. Afraid of the unknown world outside. Afraid of taking that leap. So, in my fear, I stayed, even as things worsened.

The trends which had bothered me before only increased. The size of our officer corps increased again, but the number of people making the decisions shrank. Social events, which used to be the bread and butter of our guild, fell off the wayside as I was the only officer making an effort to continue them. As a high school teenager with a life outside of the game, I just didn’t have time to run everything and no one else would step up. Instead, the focus became almost exclusively about raiding.

I do want to be clear here, I have no problems with hardcore raiding. If anything, the opposite is true, I loved the notion of going into Mythic and chasing that realm first. But what bothered me so much was how we were going about it. Our game plan was unclear and unrealistic. We wouldn’t do enough to proactively bring up low DPS or HPS numbers. And, the part that bothered me most, we were focusing on higher tiered progression raiding almost to the detriment of every other aspect of the guild.

As the weeks and then months went on, my concerns started to transform into something else: the inescapable feeling that I was not wanted. Whether this was perceived or real, I found I could not shake it. Slowly but surely, the game turned from an escape into something I would escape from. Chatting in guild became a chore. Keeping an upbeat attitude on voice chat became a challenge. And finally, raiding itself, one of my favorite parts about this game, became an absolute nightmare.

It got to the point where my guild-related stress was leaking into other aspects of my life, unrelated to video games. I got some pretty major awards recently, including being selected to be the speaker at my graduation, and I found I was so distracted by guild stuff that I couldn’t even enjoy that news. And this was something I’d been dreaming about since freshman year!

The final straw.

The final straw came Sunday evening. While in the middle of an Antorus raid, I happened to check my guild note. Rather than the cheerful ‘Fussypants!’ I had on almost all of my characters, I found something radically different.

‘Fussybitch’.

Someone had edited my note to say ‘Fussybitch’.

I do not know who changed it. I do not know why. But at that moment, I was shattered. In that instant, my guild had turned from a friendly, welcoming place, to one where I would spend the rest of my days wondering just who’d edited my guild note. Adding that onto my general stress and guild frustrations, it was too much. My guild was no longer home.

(I want to be clear here, throughout that time period where I was becoming more and more unhappy with my guild, I was very careful to remain as friendly and cheerful as I had ever been. Whenever I felt I was too upset or emotional to play, I would always log off and step away rather than bring that baggage into the guild as a whole. I am sure those who know me well probably could tell that I was upset, but I made sure to keep that out of the atmosphere. The note wasn’t inspired by that.)

For my own sanity, I can’t keep acting as if everything’s ok. I can’t keep ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away. I can’t keep making excuses, both for myself and others. I can’t keep this up.

So, for that reason, I left my guild today.

To those of you still in the guild who may be reading this, please don’t take this as me trying to get you to leave. What I wrote about here are entirely my own experiences, and they may well have nothing in common with yours. I am not trying to convince anyone other than myself that I made the right choice.

To those of you with whom I was a friend, I hope this is not the end. I truly, truly have enjoyed playing with you guys for these past couple of years, and it is because of you that I stayed around for so long. Please keep me on Battle.net, keep me on Twitter, keep me on Discord and don’t be afraid to reach out at any time. I understand if it is no longer feasible to stay friends but, regardless, I want you to know that I wish you the very best.

What comes now? Well, that, I’m not sure. This guild has been such a huge part of my World of Warcraft experience, that I’m having a hard time imagining the game without it. And additionally, with college coming up, I don’t know how much I will be able to play Warcraft. I want to keep playing, this game has been an enormous part of my life after all, but with this chapter ending, I do not know what the next one holds. I do intend to finish out this expansion strong, but after that, the future is unclear.

But one thing is clear. I am done being passive when I am hurt. I am done being silent when I am excluded. And I am done waiting for a better day to come tomorrow.

I am going to go find that day myself.

Advertisements

Soapbox Speech: The Truth about Leadership

Soapbox/cast Soap Box

I have been an officer for a little over a year now.  My guild has both the blessing and the curse of being over 900 strong.  It’s a highly active group of people who play the game in a variety of different ways.  Me and my fellow officers have the momentous responsibility and privilege  to  watch over this guild, from the day to day runnings of the guild, to planning out events days, weeks, and even months in advance.

I love my guild, I really do, but I also think there are a few things that they just don’t understand about officers and what we do.  And this sort of thing applies to more than just my guild.  I won’t claim that what I say here applies to every leadership situation everywhere, but I do think much of what I write today is relevant.  Whether we are talking about your boss, your teacher, your guild master, or the developers of the game you play, here are a few things I think everyone should understand about leadership*.
*Note: What I write here pertains to good leaders.  Bad leaders are another issue entirely that I am not touching in this article.

THERE IS NOTHING EASY ABOUT LEADING
This is one of those that I think people are aware of, but they don’t realize the extent.  Leading isn’t easy.  It’s not a one and done thing. Leadership requires constant monitoring.  Things that have been going smoothly for a while can suddenly break down, and leaders have to be right there to fix it.  As an officer, I’ve spent countless hours working on stuff for the guild.  Things like writing up information posts, leading guild events, or even just talking to members of the guild.  Events that take an hour or two can have up to three months worth of prep work.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to drop whatever else I was doing to jump in and help with something.

Now I’m not saying all this because I want sympathy or a pat on the back.  In fact, that’s not what I want at all.  If I’ve really done my job right, no one will realize how much work I put into it at all.  They will just see the end product and enjoy it for what it is.  I’m simply telling you this so that you realize. While you might not see it right away, leaders are constantly working.

Alongside with this, the choices a leader makes are not always easy ones.  You know that phrase, stuck between a rock and a hard place?  That is probably the most factual statement ever made in regards to leading.  Sometimes decisions are easy and its great and everyone is happy.  But more often than not, there are no win win situations.  Many a times, they are lose lose situations.  One of the hardest things about leading is picking the best of bad options.  Do you split the raid teams or make people sit? Do you remove this person from guild for behavior or give them another shot? Do you give this person responsibility over this issue or do you need to step in and handle it yourself?

So if you ever find yourself questioning a leader’s decision, look at what their other choice was.  Often times, a seemingly odd decision was far better than the alternate.  Leaders have to choose what is best for the group and many a times there is not a good option.  This also brings me to my next point.

Guild EventTHE NEEDS OF THE MANY OUTWEIGH THE NEEDS OF THE FEW
Or the one.  Your leaders, officers, developers, and bosses have the bigger picture in their minds at all time.  Their choices reflect what will benefit the largest amount of people.
On paper this looks all fine and dandy, but in practice this can be much harder to see.  Why is this leader purposefully screwing me over?? I thought they were supposed to look out for me! I am just as much a member of this guild as everyone else!! I’ve heard all of this (sometimes in nicer terms, sometimes not).
The fact of the matter is, I’m going to try to please the most I can.  Emphasis on most.  Because, I can’t please everyone.  If I were to try to make everyone happy, then no one would be happy.  Often times, people in the same group will want opposite things. This is why most of the world is run by some sort of democracy- when you can’t  get unanimous, you get a majority.  I might not be able to please you this time, and I’m really sorry about that.  Truly.  But one person’s unhappiness won’t change my decision to make 100 people happy.

FEEDBACK IS A LEADER’S BEST FRIEND
You know how I spend the last paragraph talking about how leaders are looking at the big picture? Well, think of it like an artist painting a  picture from very far away.  The artist can see what the picture will look like in broad shapes and colors but they can’t see some of the smaller details.  That’s where feedback comes in.  Leaders rely on this info to get an idea of what their decisions look like to the ‘every day person’.  We know in broad strokes what is going on but we can lose some of the smaller aspects.  We need people to tell us what is going on because sometimes we are too far removed (or too wrapped up in it) to see.

And once leaders know where something isn’t quite right, they can go in and fix it.  Feedback not only lets leaders know what is wrong, it lets us know what to fix.  We can actively improve when we are told what needs improving.

I am not in the camp that holds a leader knows best.  I know there are plenty of people who are, and I don’t think they are wrong for having that belief, but I simply don’t share it.  Instead, I think leadership is the art of knowing when to act and knowing when to ask.  When we are acting, try to see it from the bigger picture.  And when we are asking, tell us what is actually going on.  Don’t sugar coat it or talk around the issue.  Don’t insult us or ridicule our decisions.  Simply tell us.  “Hey, this isn’t working because A, B, and C” or “Hey, I’m unhappy because D, E, and F”.

Because leaders care.  They care so much it hurts sometimes.  They don’t want to make people upset, they want to make people happy.  And we are trying, in the best way we know how.

So this is my message to you.  Help a leader.  Whether it be your guild master, a Warcraft developer, or an authority figure in any other part of your life, just help them.  Think about the bigger picture before you lodge complaints.  And if you do lodge complaints, do it constructively.  Tell them directly.  Be blunt.  Be truthful.  And be honest. And be aware that the answer you receive might not be the one you want to hear.  But by providing feedback, you’ve helped to make the situation even just a little bit better.

/end soap box