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The Nature of Guild Disagreements: Merit vs. Favoritism

April 11, 2011

Dear Reader,

I’m sure you’ve been anxiously awaiting the third installment of our 4 part series.  I, however, haven’t.  I knew from the start I’d have the hardest part talking about this guild because, quite frankly, it was a very good guild overall.  However, there were a few bumps along the road, which I hope, dear reader, you will join me to endure.

The core problem in this dispute is the fine, fine line between merit and favoritism.  I will also preface this story by saying I’m not sure which one this incident was.  For a long time, I argued it was merit, but at the end, I began to waver.  We left before any real resolution could be reached.  I still keep in contact with some of the people in this guild because they were, true to heart, great people.

So we’re clear on definitions here, I’m using merit (or meritocracy, later) to mean that people earn their place in an organization and are respected for the job they’ve done.  Favoritism, to me, means allowing people a place (or disallowing them one) based on personal feelings rather than objective assessment.  To me, the two terms are opposites.  I’m not looking to get in a semantic debate, so I please understand that these definitions are from where my argument stems.  The argument itself is quite straightforward; Where is the line between the meritocracy and favoritism?

The Story:

Overall, I enjoyed almost everything about this guild.  The people were friendly and knowledgeable.  I got to raid on my schedule a lot, and I was a valued and respected member of the raid.  I even got to raid lead a little when our numbers were high enough to sustain a second raid.

This guild had a good reputation and an excellent philosophy about raiding.  I think it was the most “part-core” guild I’ve ever been in.  Its raid attendance was flexible, but the leaders expected you to know your stuff.  I joined their progression raid when they were pretty much done with the first six bosses of ICC10 (Fest and Rot being 5 and 6).

Since I was having such a rip-roaring time, my friend decided he wanted to join.  He went through the same application process I did (a guild app and an interview), and he passed of his own merit.  He and I had tag-tanked Kara for years, so we were filling the same roles in a 2nd ICC10 for the guild, and things were very good.  We were allowed to run the raid the way we wanted, including being a bit stricter about start times (the progression raid usually “started” at 8 but pulled at 8:30 or so), loot distribution (not the actual rules, mind you, just that we kept moving while it was being passed out), and raid comp.

The guild shrank a little after a while, when we were in the “stale white bread” phrase (I forget who made that comparison, but kudos on the accuracy).  People were tired of the content, and the progression raid was stuck on the last few bosses (we had a HELL of a time downing LK).  We didn’t have enough for two 10 mans anymore, so we consolidated down into one.  I was on Stubborn at the time, healing, but my friend didn’t really have any viable alts.  Sure, he had alts: a paladin healer and a dps shammy.  However, we basically had Jesus doing paladin healing in our guild (this guy was hands-down amazing) and we had Suz Tzu dpsing on a shammy (that’s the best I could do for a dps metaphor).  So while he could have squeezed in, there wasn’t really a spot for him.

The tank spots, too, were filled.  The Guild Leader / Raid Leader was in one of them, and, honestly, we weren’t looking for him to give his spot up.  The other spot, though, was a druid tank who was pretty good.  Okay at least.  That is to say, he was like a (I seriously struggled for a metaphor here, but couldn’t think of one that wasn’t sexual), he job got done, but it took too long and you weren’t too happy afterward.

He was a nice guy.  He was the brunt of a lot of guild jokes, and he took them in stride and laughed about it.  I admired his personality.  He’d been around a lot longer than I or my friend had, so he deserved the spot.  He’d earned it; it was a meritocracy.  I tried to explain this to my friend for a long time, who didn’t (and still doesn’t, I think) understand my point.  He only saw every flaw the guy had, every mistake he made (and there were plenty).

Once, the druid tank had to take a week off.  My buddy got a chance to tank, and we were off.  I don’t remember if I was healing or tanking that week (I think I was tanking, which would definitely have contributed to the problem).  The raid was  chain pulling trash; we downed the first four bosses in no time (this is not a testament to our tanking but the raid in general; we just liked to keep the momentum going).  We were distributing loot as we moved, all our old tricks.

Then a trash epic dropped (maybe I wasn’t tanking – maybe the GM was… I don’t remember!).  My buddy kept moving, and the guild leader wanted to stop to give the loot out.  Now, if I was tanking, I have no doubt that I egged my buddy to keep moving.  If I was healing, I don’t know what happened; I just would have been making health bars go up and not been paying attention to much else.  Eventually, though, the GM snapped that he wanted the raid to stop so this loot could go out.  My buddy stopped, but was perturbed about being snapped at (privately, though, not out loud).

He was never invited to tank again.   I heard months later (after apparently irreparable damage had been done) that the GM refused to tank with my buddy.  What confused me about this is that the GM tanked fine with me because we were both very observant and proactive, and I tanked well with my buddy because we were both observant and proactive.  It doesn’t stand to reason that they wouldn’t tank well together, but, for whatever reason, they didn’t.

At that point, a large contingent of our first guild was reforming a guild on this new server (minus Goliath’s crew), so my buddy knew could move to that guild and raid, so this was no big deal to him.  I was put in a position (not by anyone, just by the nature of the situation) that I had to chose between my buddy and the guild, though honestly there was no choice.  We moved.

The Analysis:

The core problem here is whether or not a fundamental belief was true.  I believe (as does, of course, my buddy), that my buddy is a superior tank to the druid tank that went.  The GM did not believe this.  If the GM was objectively right, then we had a meritocracy and he was fully justified in his decision to ban my friend from tanking.  If he’s wrong, then we had favoritism, and while he was within his rights to decide whatever he wanted, he was not justified in doing so.

Since, dear reader, you have no real evidence from which to draw a conclusion, all I can hope from you is that you understand the nature of this predicament.  There were no villains in this story.  The GM was a good guy, all his officers were nice guys, my buddy was a nice guy, I’m a pretty nice guy.  My buddy and I prefer momentum.  The GM prefers a lack of distraction when rolling.  Neither is right or wrong; they’re just different.

I feel like my friend kind of got the shaft, but I don’t know.  I argued with my buddy that he shouldn’t expect the druid tank to sit out since he’d been going for a long time, but I don’t know, now.  I don’t know whether it was just a personal thing against my buddy or an objective choice.  I don’t know where the line was, in the GM’s mind, between merit and playing favorites.

My buddy had a bad experience in a guild before I was playing where the GM just took his friends on raids.  It was pure favoritism, and that guild disintegrated quickly (the remnants formed my first guild, including Goliath).  He was especially sensitive to the idea of favoritism because of this, so I don’t feel he could be fully objective.

That doesn’t mean he was wrong, though.  I’ll never know.  I do know this, and I write this knowing at least one of the aforementioned officers reads this blog, so I hope he’ll understand my point.  I had hoped that there’d be a change when it became apparent that it was all of us or none of us (my wife was also a valued member of the guild).  I had hoped some agreement could be made if it became clear that pushing him out was the same as pushing us all out.

I know that the GM never saw himself pushing anyone anywhere.  That’s what I mean about there being no villains.  The facts are, though, that if you constantly hinder someone from playing the toon and role they want, eventually they’re going to want to leave.  The GM once told me that was how he dealt with people, by making them want to leave; we had a very obnoxious player who was constantly whining about loot and wanting to do this achievement or that one for his benefit.  He stopped being invited on raids, too.  My friend certainly didn’t get that treatment to the full extent, but, to a lesser extent… he sort of did.

Was my friend such a problem that he outweighed the good that my wife and I did?  Was I creating problems by trying to get my friend into raids?  Was it simpler to just do away with us all?  Or is this just built up in my mind because of my previous guild experiences which honestly all seem to end in the same way, though the path I take to get there is extremely different?  I felt like I was worth more than that, and I have a hard time believing that anyone would think that my buddy and I were a separate package.

The Takeaway:

Sorry, dear reader, there aren’t any today.  I worked very hard to keep lines of communication open on both sides of that situation, to no avail.

I’m sure there’s rules about raid attendance, merit, and favoritism that can be drawn from all of this, but, really, they’d be too long and complicated.

Actually, that’s nonsense.  During my edit, it occurred to me that there was a takeaway from all of this.

Lines of communication need to be kept open. Just because I was holding them open doesn’t mean any water was flowing.  If we had been told months before that the GM was upset about how we’d handled this or that, we could have seen to it.  My buddy and I had tanked together for a long time, so if he needed to adapt, he should have been told such, not just put out in the cold.  That’s a takeaway for a leader of any type.

I guess a second one that goes along with that is to remember that how you treat one of your guildies may, in fact, be trickling over onto others.  While you can’t be expected to rule by consensus, make sure you’re aware of who you’re really hurting, because – and here it is, in all its old-man sensitive glory – while nothing was ever done directly to me, I feel like I got treated poorly by proxy.

Sometimes there are no villains.  Other times the villains just don’t realize who they are.  Hell, I may be one in this tale; I don’t know.


Stubborn (who’s looking forward to the final installment tomorrow because this is getting depressing)


Sig, I’m not asking for any answers to those questions, nor am I looking for any insiders scoops, so please don’t feel obligated to do, say, or report back anything.  It was what it was.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Polynices permalink
    April 11, 2011 4:30 pm

    I have to say, all of these stories sound like they come down to really shitty GMs and/or officers that should never be in leadership positions. I think it’s a common MMO guild problem. This latest guy sounds like a passive-aggressive gutless wonder. No balls to actually kick a crappy player? He should never lead anything.

    It’s sad that you and your friend ended up victimized by this (again).

    • April 11, 2011 4:43 pm

      I appreciate your sympathy. To be fair, though, they weren’t. They were an extremely successful guild and every officer was always helpful and respectful to me. The gm was, as well. I just don’t really know how it went wrong; my friend is as passive aggressive as the gm, which is why I had to work so hard to try to solve the core issues between them, but I wouldn’t characterize it as being “victimized.” All that said, I do appreciate you sympathy. Thank you.

    • Polynices permalink
      April 11, 2011 6:05 pm

      I’m probably projecting as I’ve suffered from prior guilds with bad passive-aggressive officers. =)

  2. Masith permalink
    April 12, 2011 5:21 am

    Based on this I think the problem like poly says above is if officers have a problem with a player they need to confront the player and kick them if needed. Just not taking a player to raids with no conversations explaining why is pathetic.

    Having said this as an officer of a raiding guild for years now if we were having an issue with a player and either kicked/retired him and another player tried to threaten me that he would leave as well if we didn’t reinstate the first player then I would be pretty pissed off. This sort of thing is why a lot of guilds are reluctant to take on group apps.

    • Sigera permalink
      April 12, 2011 9:13 am

      Well, as it so happens, we have since become much stricter when it comes to inviting people’s friends into the guild. It is more clearly laid out ahead of time that everyone has to earn their raid spot individually. It is also explained that some raid spots just aren’t available in the core group, regardless of an individual’s skill.

      I will heed Stubborn’s warning, and not get into the nitty gritty, but I thought I’d add a couple thoughts. Our core group was and is very tight. Seldom does it change. Most of us have been raiding together since wotlk naxx. A big part of why that was/is is because there are 4 pairs of brothers in that core. I don’t know how widely that was known, since it was not mentioned above, but the GM and the Druid tank are brothers. Do with that what you will.

      I have loads more I could say, and even had to delete several rambling paragraphs that I found I had written almost automatically. Bottom line, I think the post is spot on. Communication was the main culprit (at least on my end it felt like stubborn and I were ambassadors for two sides). I wish it would have been handled better, and I sure do miss you guys.

      -Sig (somewhat flustered and perturbed at being pathetic and Jesus all in one day)

    • April 12, 2011 11:01 am

      I actually didn’t know, even after all this time, that the two of them were brothers. That actually explains a lot, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Loyalty is what it is, and I certainly can’t complain about the GM being loyal when I left out of loyalty. I wonder if my buddy knew that or not.

      Gm and druid tank, you and nibo, … cran and?… daun maybe? I remember there was another set of brothers, but I don’t know who it was. I didn’t realize at all about the 4th. Interesting to know, though. I miss you guys, too. (:

    • Sigera permalink
      April 12, 2011 11:43 am

      Cran and “Sun Tzu” would be one. The final pair would be caile/shaid and fowlplay.

      So by the time ICC swung into full force 8 spots were pretty nailed down.

    • April 12, 2011 12:59 pm

      Cran and van I didn’t realize, either, but caile/fowl I remember now.

    • April 12, 2011 10:57 am

      Well, I’m sure I did a poor job explaining both sides of it, but as it happens, I agree with both things you said, but neither were really prevalent (I think) in this situation.

      I don’t know what private conversations the GM had with people; it’s impossible to know what happened behind closed doors. I only know that in my one situation, I had to act as intermediary between them, and in the one situation with the very annoying player, he told me that’s how he dealt with people. To be fair, I had no problem with it at the time since everyone felt the same way about the player. He may very well have spoken to the annoying player without me knowing; it would have been none of my business.

      On the other hand, I don’t think I ever “threatened” to leave if my friend couldn’t go. I understand that one cannot lead by consensus. My point was just that it had to become apparent at some point that it wasn’t working and that losing one would mean losing all.

      If I misrepresented either he or myself in the post, then I apologize. I hope, though, that this clarifies things a bit.


  1. Oldies But Goldies 4: The Nature of Guild Disagreements Series « Sheep The Diamond

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