Saddling The Drama Llama

So, I’ve written a Guide to Guild Drama. Not how to cause it, everyone seems to know how to do that just fine. But how to avoid and properly manage the type of conflict that lead to it. Which I think is on the whole is a much more worthwhile pursuit.

Don't laugh at my lousy photoshop job

I’ve spent the better part of two years now as a Guild Leader and I spent most of the decade previous to that as a Union Representative for a moderately large labour union. I’m no stranger to conflict and I’m certainly no stranger to walking that fine and twisted line between two aggrieved parties in order to come to a final resolution that will satisfy everyone, at least partially. Hopefully. While this guide is aimed at dealing with conflict within a World of Warcraft guild setting, I would like to think that the principles and techniques outlined are applicable to any Warcraft or real life setting.

The Scene
You are in a raid and it’s going swimmingly. The raid leader is relaxed, pulls are going well, everyone is having a good time. (I’m just saying here that you’re in a typical group situation, working together and all is well. This happens generally during a raid situation in WoW but it could be a five-man or a battleground or even a standard family dinner or perhaps a run of the mill day at the office). One of your guildies, Joepaladin (who could of course be Joecoworker or Joebrotherinlaw) makes a comment about you publicly – over vent or raid chat – that you find deeply and personally insulting.

So there is your conflict. You could alter this scene any way you like, maybe you got a piece of gear and Joepaladin starts harassing you about it, maybe you screwed up a pull and he tears you a new one for no reason. I wanted to set a very neutral stage here for my examples, but you’re all pretty clever and experienced enough to see all the WoW- and RL-related variations on this theme.

Stages of Your Response

Don't do anything!Stage One: Don’t do anything!
I cannot stress how important it is when guild conflict comes up to not react immediately. That is the exact way that conflict escalates out of control – people acting and reacting before thinking. I know that action and reaction are almost instantaneous in our video game world, especially in a high-stress raid environment. You’re used to consequences of your actions – be it mailing items to your alt or getting a chart-topping crit – happening very fast. Which of course is why Das Experts keep saying that video games are good for your hand-eye co-ordination and all that old hat. However, “Brainwaves before soundwaves” is the rule of the day here.

So you’re taking the prudent role and thinking before shouting “STFU noob!” back at Joepaladin. Keep thinking. Try to understand why the comment was made. Or if you’re using a different sort of conflict for your example, think about the reasons for it. How well do you know Joepaladin? What do you know about him? Did his wife just have a baby? Has he been unemployed for a few months now? Did you inadvertantly do or say something that may have been misconstrued by him? Do you and he have a history of sniping at each other? What caused this conflict to occur in the first place? If you can understand the situation you have a much, much higher chance of controlling it.

Suck it upStage Two: Suck it up.
I’m not kidding, but if you’ve analyzed the situation and decided that yes maybe you called him a huntard earlier in the raid or he’s just having a crappy day anyhow and decided to take it out on you or maybe he just gets worked up in raid sometimes, then it’s time for you to be the bigger person and suck it up. Forget about it and move on.

It sounds like its an unfair thing to do and it is. He upset you and I know the natural reaction is to see some retribution for it, be it you upsetting him back or seeing the raid leader knock him down a peg or two. Or right out of the raid. But, if you’ve spent the last few seconds really thinking about the nature of the conflict you can likely see that just letting it go might be the best action. Do you really want to stop the raid while you and Joepaladin beak at each other? Is it worth wasting your guildies’ time? Is it worth upsetting your leadership? How fragile is your ego that you can’t man up and just take a knock once in a while for the sake of the guild at large. Or the peace of the workplace, or the family. What I’m saying here is to chose your battles and not to make mountains out of mole hills, especially if you’re in a position to look good by being the bigger person. The raid will notice. Your guild leadership will notice. Nothing wrong with scoring a few points with the people who really matter.

Deal with it yourselfStage Three: Deal With it Yourself.
If you’ve decided that the conflict isn’t ignorable for reasons of history, or magnitude or whatnot, then it’s time to take direct action. Direct, private action. Maybe you thought about it and you have no clue why Joepaladin called you out. Maybe he’s always doing it and you’re done letting it slide. Maybe you worry that he’s being an ass to you because he thinks you’re being an ass to him. It’s a conflict that needs to be resolved and you’re going to do it.

You personally are going to do it.

Lots of folks at this point will do what I call “crying to mommy”. They’re going to go to the Guild Leader and whine at them for half an hour. They’re going to complain to the Union Rep or the boss or call the cops. All of this because people have been trained to avoid direct, personal confrontation. And that goes double for gamers who are used to dealing with the cuddly security blanket of internet anonymity. That is not the stage you need to be at right now. That’s a higher level of conflict resolution, and believe me, if you do get to the point where you need to involve an officer, and you can tell them that you’ve tried to deal with your issues with Joepaladin quietly and on your own, your leadership is going to think more kindly of you and be more willing to help you out.

So go talk to Joepaladin. Pick a time that’s as close to the incident as possible without being disruptive. This means don’t send him a flurry of angry “WTF MAN!?!?!!!111oneone” tells during the explanation of the next boss fight. But don’t leave it till Christmas either. I’ve seen people wait and stew and agonize over something until it’s become an absolute volcano of hate and anger that spews out of them and flows like hot Drama Lava all over everyone. Chose an apropriate time.

Chose an apropriate manner as well. Don’t be belligerent. Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 80% of the conflicts I’ve dealt with in a authoritative capacity have been due to simple misunderstanding. If you go and talk to Joepaladin with the intent of learning what happened and why rather than teaching him a lesson you will find that you will not have anywhere near as much drama.

You: “Hey Joe, what was up in raid last night? You’re always making comments about me and I’m starting to be hurt by them. Why do you keep doing it?”

Joepaladin: “Oh, whoa man, my bad. I was just teasing you. I didn’t know that my comments were coming across as hurtful. Sorry.”

And then you both go on your merry way. Trust me on this one. It might sound at the time like Joepaladin is laying down the most monumental insult to you and your family that there ever could be, but he thinks he’s only being funny, with no intent to hurt. Don’t believe me? Then think for a second. Have you ever said something that was taken out of context or taken the wrong way and upset someone? Everyone has done it. So when you’re on the recieving end of some hurtful comments or behaviour, accept the possibility that they weren’t meant that way.

Let’s say he won’t talk to you. Or he apolgizes and keeps repeating the conflict-causing behaviour. Or when you do go talk to him he causes more conflict. Or he’s plain unrepentant. Now it’s time to move up a stage.

Involve the AuthoritiesStage 4: Involve the Authorities.
Now exactly what authorities we’re talking about here depends on a whole host of factors. For our example, let’s say that you asked him why he insulted you in raid and he said something along the lines of “Because you deserved it you waste of space. And I’m going to keep doing it until you guild quit.” Feel free to use your own examples, but let’s say in short that the conflict was not or could not be resolved by you and Joepaladin sitting down and talking it out like adults.

So you need to appeal to a higher power. In our guild, we have a conflict resolution team, so that a) all the guildies know where to go when they need help and b) the rest of the officers aren’t distracted from their duties by listening to everyone’s problems. Make sure that you’re not just jumping to the highest rung on the authority ladder. The person at the top has a load of things to do, so work your way up the ladder. I’m assuming you know what the command structure is in your guild. Or your workplace or family.

If you’re in my guild and you come to me (yup, Guild Leader is on our conflict resolution team. So play nice children cause I deal with drama by typing /gkick till the annoying noise stops) I’m going to ask you what happened, and what you’ve done to deal with the issue. If the answer is “Joepaladin called me a nooblet in raid QQ.” I’m going to tell you to be a man about it. And then follow the proper stages and come back to me at an apropriate time. I’m hoping that you’re reading this with an intent to apply the stages and you’ve arrived at your chosen guild authority for a good reason.

Don’t whine. Don’t dramatize, don’t talk about how hard your life is or all the things you do for the guild to make your case seem better. It makes you look pathetic. If you’re honestly being treated badly by a guildie, it will show without you needing to resort to theatrics. Just tell it like it is and trust your leadership. Explain what was said or done, explain how it made you feel and why. Explain what you’ve done to try and deal with the issue. Definitely state that this has been an ongoing thing if it has, but don’t start talking about stuff that happened six months ago unless it’s really necessary. Provide evidence if needed. Let your authority figure know that you have screenshots or that Susieshaman was there on vent and heard the whole thing.

Let it goStage 5: Let it Go.
Yup, that’s it, you’re done. It’s time to move on. If the officer (or other authority figure) you went to is any sort of decent, trustworthy person they’re going to deal with your issue. It might take them a few days to get around to it, it might take them some time to talk it out with the other officers if needs be, and it might take them some time to catch Joepaladin online at a decent time to discuss things with him, but you need to trust your leadership. Don’t start harassing them to deal with the issue an hour after you’ve talked to them.

And here’s the big one. Don’t expect your officer to come back to you with the gory details of what happened when they went to talk to Joepaladin. If I have to discipline someone, that is a private matter between me and them and my other officers. We’re not into public floggings or putting people in the stocks in the town square for the weekend so that you can throw rotten fruit at them. We’re trying to make sure everyone has an enjoyable as possible game experience. Ask yourself if you had done something wrong would you want to be taken to task before the whole guild or talked to quietly? I’ve had guildies perceive a discreet silence as “not doing anything” and I want to make it quite clear that if you have good leadership, they are doing something. They’re doing a lot of things, but they’re doing them quietly so you can got about your business of having fun in WoW.

Depending on the outcome of the discussion with the officer you may need to repeat Steps 3, 4 and 5 again. However, I would hope that if your guild leadership is seeing the problem as recurring, they realize that they may have to take the final step of removing someone from the guild. That’s more for the officers to decide, and beyond the scope of this guide, which is aimed at helping the average player avoid as much drama as possible for themselves and making the guild environment as pleasant as possible for all concerned.

DRIn the case of a TL: DR (which is understandable) here is the handy-dandy short form list of the Stages to Saddling the Drama Llama:

Stage 1 – Don’t do anything! Stop and think about the issue.
Stage 2 – Suck it up. Be the bigger person and let the conflict slide.
Stage 3 – Deal with it yourself. Talk to the other person, adult to adult.
Stage 4 – Involve the authorities. Chose the right level to take it to.
Stage 5 – Let it go. Move on, let bygones be bygones.

And of course, Stage 6: Have fun and play nice!



  1. November 26, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Excellent article. My first question when people /w me about so-and-so-said-such-and-such is “did you tell them that it bothered you? what good does it do to tell me if they don’t know?” And I give them some pointers on basic conflict resolution.

    I’ll definitely be tagging this as a favorite. I will also be posting a link to this in our guild’s forums.

  2. Gevlon said,

    November 27, 2008 at 1:22 am

    Great work, and the best for the guild to be drama-free.

    However, for the person there is easier solution: /ignore Joepaladin (and mute him on vent). No more Joepaladin comments.

  3. oriniwen said,

    November 27, 2008 at 9:10 am

    @ Finn: Thanks! I actually wrote this for *my* guild forums and I thought with a little tweaking it would be acceptable to post here. I really hope that even one of your guildies sees this and takes it to heart. It’s amazing how much good one person can do for your guild.

    @Gevlon: As nice as it is to just lay the /ignore down on someone, I find that it’s not always feasable in a guild setting. For ‘random guy annoying me over trade’ it works quite well, but generally you have to have a more interactive relationship with your guildies, especially in a raid setting.

  4. guildguru said,

    November 29, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    @Gevlon, I have to agree with Oriniwen here. If you mean to use /ignore for someone from a PUG or trade chat or random adventuring, then yeah just ignore and move on with your virtual self. But when it comes to someone you’re guilded with it’s best to work things out–and sooner rather than later.

    Maybe in a 200+ account guild you can ignore someone and not have to worry about it but for the vast majority of guilds you’re talking anywhere from 25 to 75 accounts and any drama within those ranks is felt by all members of the guild. I would say every guild member has a responsibility to the rest of their guild mates to work out issues as they arise.

  5. GoW said,

    December 10, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    This is going in my permanent bookmark list. Outstanding!

  6. February 18, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    […] time you’re in that situation. I do indeed know the rules to conflict resolution. Hell, I wrote […]

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