Secrets, secrets, and more secrets. What level of privacy are GMs expected to uphold? What should we keep from the rest of the guild? What aspects should GMs be transparent about? We almost came close to burying this episode.

In this episode we discuss…

  • Personal issues
  • Changing guild directions
  • Decisions affected by things that can’t be publically disclosed
  • When transparency ought to apply

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The Transcript

The transcript has been edited for clarity and grammar.

Matt: Before we start, I need to mention something about this episode. We’re going to be talking about some real, heavy stuff tonight. Some of these are aspects of the game that aren’t… really talked about. Sometimes players have problems that are extremely personal to them and they approach GMs. It’s, what’s that term, it’s potential triggery type stuff. So if these are potential topics that make you uncomfortable, take a pass on this week.

Good evening listeners, and welcome to another edition of the Guildmasters Podcast, the companion show to the Guildmasters blog for both players new to leadership and veterans who want to brush up on their skills. I, as always, at Matt Low. Better off known as thee Matticus. Not the. Thee. We have a solid show for you tonight! And before we get going, thank you all again for listening and subscribing to our little podcast! We appreciate the kind words and the support.

Matt: As always, special guest host, SNL alumni, jeopardy host, and movie star, WIL FERREL! No, wait…

Will:  I’ll take topics that stress you out the most for 1000, Alex.  No Matt, anyway, big episode today, so what do we have?

Matt: And that leaves us with today’s question of the week.

Main Topic/Question

 Dear Masters,

A raider came to us recently with a very personal issue that would affect our raiding environment.  So much so that we’ll probably have to change some of the make-up of our raid and maybe even lose a few people over it.  This is stressing me out how to handle it, help me!

-Stressed in Saskatchewan

Matt: Like I mentioned at the beginning of the show, this is going to be a bit of a serious and somber episode. Some of the topics from players, we get approached about all sorts of stuff. We’re not counselors, or psychologists or doctors or any of that stuff. We’re not trained when it comes to these things. And yet, the personal relationships between a GM and a raider often involve sensitive topics. I find it odd that players are reluctant to talk about their dissatisfaction with how a raid went or how the guild is run but won’t hesitate in discussing relationships with their significant other with a stranger over the internet.

Will:  While this is a game, and we are all there to have fun, there are going to be inevitably be some not-so-fun situations that occur that require some discretion on the part of you and your leadership.  Its not easy, it doesn’t feel good usually but you owe it to the other people in your guild to do whats best for the guild.  And it comes with being a professional in these circumstances.  You can be the worst raid leader or guild master, but if you go about your business with professionalism, at the very least people can trust in you and thats one big word of the day, trust.

Matt: Right, exactly. Discretion. Privacy. Those are all important words here. Gotta know when to keep your mouth shut about stuff because not everything that comes your way is the business of everyone. And sometimes, as a GM or even an officer, you become privy to information that could very well ruin relationships, families, lives even. You think I’m joking but I’ve seen some crazy stuff.

Will:  The question today from our listener talks of a biggie in terms of the effect this secret or issue has on the future of their guild.  These are the days you wish someone else was leader and had to deal with it.  But you can make it through and gain a lot of trust and confidence from those you help.  So for the sake of something to talk more concretely about, I’ll throw out an example of something that might happen.  Disclaimer here, this has not been something that has happened in a guild I was a part of, I’m just piecing together examples of other stories from other guilds.  This is like at the end of cop drama shows where they say any resemblance to real life events or people is purely coincidental.  So lets say we have a husband and wife who are officers in your guild and the wife comes to you as GM and tells you that they are getting a divorce.  Maybe they give you details about why and whats going on, those aren’t as important as the main situation.  You have a major thing that will likely result in an officer leaving your guild and maybe some fallout from there.  So how do you handle it.

Matt: Okay, let’s pause for a moment here. What do you do when you become aware of another person’s business? Ideally, it’s personal, it’s on the other party, and you don’t want anything to do with it. Your hands are full as a GM handling things like recruiting, deciding what bosses to kill, all that fun stuff. Joe Raider comes to you, and tells you that they’re sleeping with an officer in the guild who’s married to someone else, like Wil’s example up there. On the one hand, you wanna wring the guy’s neck for bringing it to your attention. But regardless, cat’s outta the bag and you know it. First thing’s first, don’t say anything. Let them talk. Maybe they just need to vent and de-stress. Sometimes all people really need is just someone to listen to. That’s it. Let them get it off their chest.

Will: Obviously a change in leadership with the officership is going to happen with the situation I lined out, but who is going to go and who is going to stay is an even stickier thing to get into.  For something that involves multiple people in the guild like this, it would be best to get some one on one time with each party.  So for this example, you already heard from the wife but as a follow-up ask them their intentions.  Do they want to stay, do they plan on still playing, etc.  Then, if appropriate and ok with that first person who brought it to you, have a meeting with the husband.  Tell them you heard what is happening and need to know their intentions.  You don’t need to get into their business at all like Matt said but just get to the root of what it means for that person raiding and what they intend to do for the game.  I mean, neither people may want to mess around with playing a game as intense as WoW when they have something big like this.  Just get what the situation is and proceed cautiously.

Matt: Thankfully, I’ve never had to deal with a situation like this in the history of the guild. I would’ve just ejected them all out and said look, I appreciate the contributions you’ve made to the community and to the guild, but your continued presence here is going to make players uncomfortable and it’s an unnecessary distraction for my raid. Therefore, I have no choice but to part ways with all of you. Good luck out there in the game. That is the scorched earth policy I would take. Now, not every GM is going to be in a position where they can say something like that due to roster or progression related issues. This is where you have to play politics and think ahead to how this is going to impact your roster. You might not even be able to contain it. Players in the guild, some might care, some might not. The ones that don’t care are fine, but the ones that do care, yknow, maybe they were friends with one or the other or both, but now they’re in an awkward position where they need to pick sides.

Will:  And sometimes, this kind of thing will leak out regardless of what you do.  One person talks to another and all of a sudden everyone knows.  The big point though is that you yourself aren’t the source of something leaking out.  If there are relationships to be salvaged out of these messy situations, trust is a valuable asset to build.  If someone knows you can keep their secret, they may pay you back in loyalty and friendship for years to come.

Matt: I got a good story here. Number of years ago when Conquest, my guild, was in it’s infancy, I had a player who was regular and reliable. They showed up to every raid and did their part. But one day, she came to me and whispered, I’m here but I don’t know if I’ll be able to raid. I’ll try to. And I said well, okay. Do you need some time away? We could really use you because we’re tackling Sindragosa tonight. And she said I was just sexually assaulted by an ex boyfriend. And I’ll tell you right there, my heart pretty much stopped. Because nothing in any book trains you in how to handle a scenario like that. I was speechless, I didn’t even know what to say. I think I just exhaled and said oh. Thankfully, my brain in it’s infinite wisdom said y’know what, take the night off. Hell, take the week off. do whatever you gotta do to look out for yourself first. But I was in quite a state of shock, let me tell ya. I immediately alerted my officers and told them that she wouldn’t be able to come in today. A few of them demanded to know why. I said it’s really personal, and to trust me. But still they pressed. And, I relented after swearing them to secrecy. We’re all adults and we understood the ramifications, and we agreed that it was not something the rest of the raid needed to know. Players are naturally curious though, and it wasn’t long before raid started and people asked where one of our main, steady player was and I had to lie. I made something up like they were sick or had to work overtime, I couldn’t remember it was years ago. After that situation though, I made it known to my officers that if a player couldn’t attend raid no questions asked, it would be because it was a severe situation that warranted that level of secrecy. The less they knew, the better and to just focus on the players we had available.

Will: Thats a pretty heavy example of personal situations but there are other things that can happen with the guild where you are called upon to hold your cards close to the chest.  For example, we had an episode recently about guild mergers and one of the top things we recommended was to not let raiders or maybe even officers know that you are looking into something like that, at least initially.  If your talks with that other guild fall through or the situation changes, there would be no good that comes from letting people know about it.

Matt: Yeah, exactly. There’s no sense in alarming the rest of the guild over a potential situation that might not even occur.

Will: Maybe also, your main tank approaches you about a potential work schedule change which means they start to miss raids.  This may mean you need to start recruiting a tank, but you should not panic and wait a little bit on this information until your tank is certain that their schedule will be a problem.  Just chill and work things out when appropriate.

Matt: Okay, we’re going to change gears now and we’re going get on the topic of transparency. When should players be alerted about stuff that takes place behind the scenes? Loot rewards is a classic example of this.

Will:  Yeah, this can happen almost on a nightly basis if you have some raiders really tuned into loto decisions.   If a discussion in loot council was had about how player X deserves this piece over player Y, there is no need to broadcast every decision for every piece of loot.  But if someone questions it, a quick summary of the reasons should be enough to diffuse most situations involving loot.  Maybe the person will start to question those opinions and at that point you can move that discussion until after the raid with that person but you can at least keep the raid moving along.

Matt: Exactly. I once had a player, who was a tank mind you, hold up the raid and refused to pull anything until he received a satisfactory answer as to why we awarded someone else Conqueror pants or something. I was absolutely livid and that player did not last long at all. There is a right and wrong time for everything. And obviously holding up 24 other players was the wrong way to do it.

Will:  Maybe this is foreshadowing for a future episode….hint hint loot systems?

Matt: Yeah, that’s a heck of a mammoth topic that we’ll save for a different episode. Might even have to split it over two episodes. Anyway, I don’t know if there’s a hard and fast rule for when to disclose things. Like if a player is seriously ill, you can mention that they’re sick. If someone’s late, that’s okay too. If someone’s depressed or going through a really tough time, it’s not anyone elses business. Marital problems, probably not either. You are the GM and you’re going to have these kinds of conversations and I don’t even know if there’s anything Wil and I here can really say or suggest that can prepare you GMs or officers. We’re not counselors or anything. Do the best you can. Recognize the signs and listen to your gut. If it sounds serious, encourage them to get professional help.

Summary

Okay, we’re about to reach the end of our show here so let’s recap!

  1. Gather the information necessary to handle whatever situation is coming your way. Do it calmly, carefully, and discreetly. Keep it to yourself if appropriate.
  2. When transparency is called for, handle it the same way. Those are issues that need to be isolated separately so that they don’t interrupt your raid on your time.

CONCLUSION

Matt: Thanks for listening to the Guildmasters Podcast! If you want to contact us and leave us your feedback or have a question that you’d like us to help answer, email us at hi@guildmasters.org.

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If you’re on Twitter, you can follow us @GuildmastersOrg and you can follow the hosts. Matt can be found @Matticus and Wil can be followed @GitErRaid. If you’re interested in the show notes for the episode or want to drop a comment, head on the Guildmasters website at guildmasters.org. You can also find the video and accompanying slides there as well. See you next time!