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Leading when You’re Not

October 30, 2012

Dear Reader,

My wife is now an official member of a Roller Derby team.  She passed all the rules and skills tests and now gets to meet and vote with the rest of the derbiers.  She’s been to meetings in the past, but has had little to say about them; as a “fresh meat,” she had no voting privileges.  After her most recent meeting, though, she came home flustered.  She was fine with the decisions being made, but process of the meeting had irritated her; it had been chaotic, with people talking long-windedly about irrelevant nonsense and not actually getting the meeting done.

So my wife did what she felt she had to, and took over running the meeting.  She knows a lot of about process from running the model UN and model Illinois government clubs and classes at her university.  She created order out of chaos and facilitated getting the meeting done.  She was irritated she had to do it, but she was glad that it had sped things up.

As a good husband (or at least someone who strives to be one), I didn’t know how to proceed.  You see, dear reader, I can tell she’s walking into a terrible trap.  It’s the same trap I’ve walked into repeatedly, and I want to protect her from that.  It’s a trap that many of us are familiar with.  When good, intelligent, responsible people see an organization tilting dangerously to one side, we feel that if no one else is going to right the ship, someone has to, so we must.  And without fail, it begins to sap the life and enjoyment out of the things we do.

I’ve done it to every raid organization I’ve been in.  I’ve seen various problems in the raids, and I’ve slowly begun to address those problems – either by talking to officers or volunteering to raid lead – which has led me to stop having fun.  You simply cannot change the established culture of an old organization.  Cannot.

In my first guild, the defunct Inner Sanctum, there was a problem of officers who were assholes who didn’t pull any weight.  I saw to it (poorly, in hindsight), and the guild split.  Bad blood still exists to this day.

In my second guild, the raiding was extremely poorly run, so when a spot opened, I volunteered to take over, and enabled the guild to finish raids it couldn’t have dreamed of finishing before.  But the culture of accepting any trash raider that signed up never changed, and without the power to change that myself, I got more and more frustrated by no-shows, greedy jerks, and perpetually tardy players.  The frustration more than overwrote the fun, and I eventually quit.

In my third guild, the raid group was quite solid and I was happy with how things were done.   We were so solid that we grew larger, and eventually I got to run a few of my own raids.  I ran them similarly to the others, but with a few small changes – such as continuing pulling while loot was distributed.  When some of those “B team” raiders got into the “A team” raids, they continued that process, which angered the guild/raid leader.  My buddy was among them, and he was blacklisted.  That eventually led me to quit.  Admittedly, this is the weakest of the examples because really I didn’t do much wrong, but still; my different leadership led to problems.

In my most recent guild, another terribly run organization, I took over more and more responsibility until it started to look at lot like my second guild.  I took a break at Christmas, and haven’t returned to end-game stuff since.

Why can’t I learn my lesson?  Why must I constantly insinuate myself in the bailing out of sinking ships, as was the case in three of these guilds?

I don’t know, but I do know I don’t want my wife to do the same.  I carefully breached the subject to her, and I think she understood.  But, dear reader, she’s like me.  Nothing will change, nor can it.  We’re teachers, for god’s sake.  Ignorance and mismanagement are our enemy, and it’s hard not to bring that to every aspect of what we do.

Am I happy my past WoW experiences have basically been ruined because I think the people leading those raids were being inefficient – that I could – to put it plainly – do better?  Of course not.  I don’t do things like that at work, but I’ve been blessed in my career in two ways.  First, I’ve had pretty good immediate supervisors everywhere I’ve worked, old hands who knew the game and largely ignored the bureaucratic bullshit.  Two, as a teacher, I can just close the door and do my own thing.  Still, it’s not that I don’t know how to keep my head down, it’s that I seem incapable of doing so in a gaming situation.

It may be the case that I don’t think that my fun should be mismanaged by others.  I can accept that when I’m at work, if something unpopular happens, well, suck it up; I’m getting a paycheck.  In a game, the same’s not true; I’m voluntarily participating, and I don’t want to be a jerk and leave people in the lurch, so I’d rather work to improve the environment.  But it never works out that way, though my attitude still persists.

What about you, dear reader?  How do you deal with mismanaged situations?  Have you dealt with bad guilds, or are you one of the lucky ones?


Stubborn (and foolish)

12 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2012 7:54 am

    Ah Stubborn, I wish I had an answer for you but you know I don’t. 😉 You’ve pretty much described my own ever-returning story in MMOs. I always knew part of it was my professional background and I make no secret out of the fact that I enjoy passing on knowledge or organizing things; at the same time though, I always hope to be lead as good as I personally think I can lead – I am absolutely fine with a competent leadership. things don’t have to go my way all the time. however, trouble starts when I see too much mismanagement all around me…and when I lose my respect for those assuming to lead. it’s a kind of damage that is almost irrepairable in my world.

    Simply put: I can’t stop caring. I’ve realized this about myself. I need to be passionate about the things I do a lot or I cannot do them – and gaming or work both count among them. it is very hard for me to close my eyes when there are issues or injustices. it’s something that right now I struggle IRL (at my new workplace) a lot more than in MMOs and frankly I’m not sure yet how I’ll solve this situation. I’m too new at the new workplace to ‘have rights’ to make much difference – at the same time it doesn’t look like anybody will push things forward anytime soon, while many employees are affected by them. I frankly hate it =D
    it’s like a test right now where I can’t decide what’s right – staying and enduring (with the little change I can make but will eventually drive me mad) or leaving and looking for a new place……Sigh.

    • October 30, 2012 4:57 pm

      I’m sorry to hear you’re in that kind of bind professionally; I’m thankful that the only time I had a superior who was truly terrible was in NY when I knew I was leaving shortly. That made the decision of enduring or leaving simple: endure until you leave. What you describe sounds like several of my guild situations. The first and third weren’t much; one split and one kicked my buddy, and loyalty is a big deal to me, but the other two made it tough to know whether to stay or go. I left one and am seriously considering leaving the other; the only reason I’d stayed was because my two RL friends were in it, and they’re in Germany now with little time to play and often not at normal “Amercian” times.

      I hope your work situation works out, regardless!

  2. October 30, 2012 8:16 am

    I’m familiar with that feeling too, and was going to mention it in a post of my own soon. My SWTOR guild hasn’t been “bad”, but it lost a lot of members over time and we landed in that uncomfortable space where we had some people left who wanted to raid, but not actually enough members to do so. Even though I was neither a senior member nor a high-ranking officer, it felt like I had to be the one to hold it all together because there was nobody else left to do so, and it was really frustrating me. It took the catalyst of one of the other members leaving to raid with another guild while I was away for a week to make me go: “Really? Why am I struggling so much with this when it’s not my responsibility and nobody else is bothering? Let’s just go and join other guilds to raid, those few of us who are left.” And people were actually okay with it.

    • October 30, 2012 5:01 pm

      Yes, my early Cata guild went through that exactly. As people returned to school after winter break, there weren’t enough raiders any more. We had been helping the PvPers by filling slots – willingly and having a good time – but when they refused to reciprocate, things started to get nasty. I tried hard to hold things together, but as I knew would eventually happen, the best raiders floated away one by one.

      In my current guild, we don’t do very well when we raid, so a lot of officers simply go raid with other guilds. I’m not important enough to ask “what the hell do you think you’re doing?” but since I’m learning not to care about this guild, I’ll probably ask soon. It meant our “A team” raids were often filled with officers alts, and there were times people wanted to raid with the guild but the officers were elsewhere. It sent a horrible message that I couldn’t deal with, so I gave up on end game. I’m still there. Maybe bailing on this guild will change that.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. October 30, 2012 8:46 am

    You mention that involvement is the enemy of fun. But yet not being involved and thus subject to mismanagement isn’t fun either.
    Perhaps JP Sartre’s philosophies can be applied here? His claims were that ‘life begins on the other side of despair’… or that one must have ‘gone through’ a storm. Perhaps ‘fun begins on the other side of abandon’?

    Also, I’m with Syl. Some people were just created to care and an internal drive to impact positive change. Hell or high water, ‘fun’ or not, this is *purpose* we are speaking to, ultimately. Where one person’s ‘purpose’ in a game might be ‘fun’, another might find theirs in ‘organization’… Thoughts to consider.

    • October 30, 2012 5:04 pm

      You’re quite right, and I think that’s the damning part of my behavior. Windsoar wrote a little while about about going from hardcore to casual raiding, that she couldn’t deal with the hardcore lifestyle any more but that casual raids made her nuts. That’s right where I was before I stopped. I’m not having any fun with the terrible mismanagement, but I know I can’t change it, either. I don’t think it’s a storm I can survive anymore; eventually a sailor just gets tired (;

      I like your terminology, your calling on “purpose” as a reason. I certainly would like to agree with that (and probably do, really, but for the sake of argument), but how can we be sure it’s not just us thinking more of ourselves than simply saying we’re bossy and intolerant of different leadership styles? That’s what I’m not sure of: whether we’re discussing purpose or flaws.

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. October 30, 2012 11:05 am

    Interesting, I seem to be a bit of the polar opposite. I get all gung ho to improve things at work, promptly falling into said trap, but in gaming, I’m a lot more laissez-faire about various issues.

    It may make me upset or irritated from time to time, but I find it easier to just ignore/block/shut it off/shut it out and not care so much. There’s always another guild, another place to move on to, and worse come to the worse, I can do most things in a game on my own.

    That said, I did get my fingers into many many pies in my first online game, including leadership and organization of various things… but perhaps that bout of caring too much taught me that I just don’t want to go down that road again.

    • October 30, 2012 5:06 pm

      You’re right about guild hopping, but my feet got sore from all the hopping I’ve done. I’ve been seriously invested in 7 guilds at this point, and I just don’t have the will left to keep investing. Hopefully having stopped giving a hoot will let that well of care begin to revitalize, but only time will tell.

      Thanks for the comment!

  5. Beshara permalink
    October 30, 2012 3:06 pm

    I have found myself being drawn to these type of situations as well. I like to help organize, be behind the scenes helping the leader out, whether it is raiding or the guild in general. I think part of my draw to it is caring about the group and wanting to help make things better. I do think a small part is wanting to have some control over the situation. Every guild I’ve been in I feel drawn to some leadership task, even when I tell myself I won’t do it. It drives my husband crazy because it feels like I’m getting too involved in the management and not having fun doing it. Mainly because most of the time things don’t work out and I get very frustrated. It’s very hard to resist this urge. It doesn’t help that with an infant my schedule is completely unpredictable, so I find myself having to cut back on what I can do gaming wise.

    • October 30, 2012 5:09 pm

      The infant may be a blessing in disguise (I mean clearly it’s a blessing, but in regards to gaming). I sometimes feel that if I had another hobby I enjoyed, I might be able to leave MMOs altogether, but, frankly, I don’t. Nothing has engaged me the way MMOs have, and the great tragedy there is that they by design require other people. It drives my wife crazy when I do the same, which made it easy for me to breach the topic of her doing the same thing at her derby club, but like I said badly but was refined and reintroduced by Syl and Atchu – we may be discussing purpose here, a driving factor in our lives that simply can’t be ignored. I don’t know if I agree – or want to, as it might spell doom – but the possibility can’t be ignored.
      Thanks for the comment!

  6. Talarian permalink
    October 30, 2012 3:18 pm

    Yup, I feel you on this one loud and clear. I’m much the same, hence why I gave up on other people’s raids and just run my own that I created from scratch rather than inheriting someone else’s mess. Have for 3 years 😀

    But there’s a lot to be said about you having a skillset, and seeing someone else apply that skillset poorly because they just don’t know any better. It’s frustrating, because you’ve seen it before. You know that it will end poorly, you know that the team is not going to make any progress, and you don’t want to feel stymied by it. So you step in, because to not step in is to go slowly crazy over time. The only other option is to drop it and move on. Doing nothing will probably never be an option because that just leads back to frustration, which isn’t any healthier. In a world of raiding, moving on to another team is relatively easy. In a world of roller derby, there’s a definite geographical problem that would have to be overcome if you wanted to change teams, so I don’t think it’s so easy for your wife to just back off and not care.

    • November 2, 2012 11:28 am

      I’ve really thought about trying to start my own guild, but after the Cata fail of a guild in which I was a senior officer, I just don’t know if I have it in me to build something from the ground up. I’d sure like to, though!

      Thanks for the comment!

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