Thursday, April 10, 2014

3.62. Diplomacy for Dummies

The 25-Man defeats Profession Putricide,
earning "The Plagueworks (25 Player)",
Icecrown Citadel

The Politics of Raiding

The third wing of ICC was now open for service, and although the 25-Man progression team plowed through the The Blood Prince Council without batting an eye, we came to a dead stop at Blood Queen Lan'athel. Attempt after attempt went into the vampiric blood elf, her wings spread wide as she feasted on each player of the raid, injecting them with their own insatiable blood lust. A discussion on what needed to change was dominating the guild forums, but theories varied. Notably, Jungard had been in talks with Blain about the possibility of pushing out the first bite in order for the raid to gain precious seconds near the end. Additionally, Blain offered to assist Jungard (and in turn, Omaric and Bretthew) in handling bite assignments -- a degree of micromanagement Blain was famous for. On the surface, Omaric and Bretthew seemed to welcome the help; behind the scenes, I remained suspicious of their sincerity. The 25-Man was their show now, and to have the old raid leader resume old habits...even unofficially...must have rubbed them the wrong way. Omaric, in particular, was the one I was concerned about. Known for his habitual back-seat raid leading during Cheeseus' reign, Blain's reach must have felt a bit overextended. But, Blood Queen remained undefeated, and I'm certain this was part of the reason Omaric took Blain's help, rather than reject it.

Shadowfrost Shards continued to be sent to my bags, but little else; I kept mum while the majority of upgrades went to the Elite, and what table scraps remained began to show up on the character sheets of the Raiders. The lack of shinies contributed to my funk; the loss of one of my longest running guild members and officers, Dalans, hung heavy. It wasn't long before I expanded to fill the vacuum left in his absence. Without his ever present strong-arm tactics ensuring guildies played by the rules and kept their whining to a minimum, the need to perform those duties on my own took root. I grew less tolerant of mistakes, expected more from people, and was less inclined to meet the needs of the Raider over the Elite. Complaints that they weren't seeing as frequent of loot upgrades as expected were met with little sympathy from me. My inner voice took command, repeating to them the tenets of the guild's philosophy:

The "Raider" rank enjoys more flexibility than the "Elite"; that's why they get 1st round bidding rights. That's their perk. Your perk is that you get to come and go as you please. You don't get to have the cake and eat it, too. If you want more loot, give me greater commitment, just as the Elite have. End of story.

The Raiders weren't the only ones on the receiving end. I grew increasingly distasteful of Omaric and Bretthew's "loosey goosey" leadership style, one rife with chatting and jokes, making light of mistakes that were our downfall in an earlier expansion. Where once I approved of their fun-loving, playful atmosphere, I now sat and stared it down with stilted eyes. After calling them out several times on their lack of focus, they dug their heels in and expressed their dissatisfaction with my handling of their promotion, pointing out that I had yet to officially acknowledge them as DoD's new 25-Man raid leaders. Those who walked the hallowed halls before them, Cheeseus and Blain, had been paraded down the red carpet like kings returned from a holy war, now ready to lead our people to victory. Yet no forum post existed in Omaric or Bretthew's name. I told them it was an oversight. In reality, it went much deeper. They hadn't yet won me over. Yes, they were doing the job, achievements were being knocked out, progress was being made -- but they hadn't persuaded me of their leadership.

I wasn't yet in a position to make that fact known. While I certainly had control over the roster, options in the leadership department were still minimal at best. And a charge like that would be far too damning to players driven by their emotions. Between the former back seat raid leader and the paladin who concocted a story to hide the truth behind a temper tantrum, this situation clearly required finesse. I agreed with them on the finer points of their argument. You're absolutely right. I haven't acknowledged your efforts. It needs to be done. And I wrote the post marking them as the officially sanctioned raid leaders of DoD, supplying a bulleted list of all of the accomplishments they cleaned off our plate. The negotiation had silently begun. The next time we'd speak, it would be me with a list of demands.

That was the plan, at least.

The Blood Council fails to deliver 25k damage to any
player, earning DoD "The Orb Whisperer (25 Player)",
Icecrown Citadel

Hell Freezes Over

One evening, as we cleared our way toward Festergut and Rotface, Hellspectral had become noticeably louder in Vent. An hour earlier, I began to pick up on hints that something wasn't right. Normally quiet during the boss fight, Hellspectral was feeding off of Ben in Vent. The shadow priest's insane numbers went hand-in-hand with deafening screams that pissed off anyone wearing a half decent set of headphones. And in staying true to his PvP roots, this behavior was generally followed by any number of trash-talking insults toward guildies who managed to meet or exceed his "contributions" -- that playful way that PvPers expressed admiration in the same way the common man would express disgust. On this particular evening, Hellspectral took it upon himself to do just that, not only matching Ben's entry in Recount, but his volume in Ventrilo as well. Without Dalans' itchy trigger finger to mute him, Ben and Hells competed uninhibited in damage and in decibels.

Things went south when Saurfang fell over dead.

In those next moments of transitioning through Saurfang's doorway, down the hallways guarded by icy traps, Hellspectral continued on his tirade as if drunk from a night on the town. This behavior came to a head when we arrived at the entryway forking to Putricide and his two pet abominations, Stinky and Precious, guarding their respective masters.

"I've had enough of this! Imma take a nap," Hellspectral announced. An awkward silence fell over vent, as everyone knew exactly what my stance was regarding leaving a raid early: zero tolerance, followed by instant, permanent removal from the guild. They waited to see if the death knight would hearth and log out -- he did neither. Instead, his virtual self stood motionless, staring at one of the walls of the citadel's chambers. Reality set in. He wasn't behaving as if he were drunk...

..he was drunk.

"Are you fucking serious?" I, at last, broke the silence.

"Is he gone?"

"I think he's passed out."

Rage and fury began to paint my screen red, as I alt-tabbed to the desktop, dragged Hellspectral into a separate Vent channel, proceeding to scream at the top of my lungs in an attempt to "wake him up". There was no response. I was stunned. Never in the history of my guild had any of the core raid team ever passed out drunk in the middle of a run. Moments later, Blain joined the channel.

"I can't fucking believe he's doing this. What is going through his mind? I'm one step away from kicking him. This is totally unacceptable behavior."

And then, Blain did something that completely caught me off guard.

"I've got this. Let me handle it. Head on back to the raid channel. I'll take care of it."

Mature completes the Ashen Verdict reputation grind,
Icecrown Citadel

Mischief Managed

Blain? Mediating? Never in the history of the guild had Blain ever shown any interest in dealing with people issues. His leadership style had forever been "My Way or the Highway", a style I adopted in some form or another. If it had been any other day, or any other guildy...if a cord was about to be cut, Blain would've been the first to offer to hold the scissors. Why was he doing this thing that was so unconventional of him?

I didn't know how to respond, so in my stupor, I simply spoke back into the mic the first thing that came to mind...

"Thank you...for doing that."

I returned to the raid channel joining a conversation already in progress. Players were joking about placing bets about how fast Hellspectral would be unguilded. 

"Ok, everyone...settle down. The issue is being handled. Let's continue." The raid smartened up, and quickly resumed the process of pulling trash...albeit a bit quieter and more focused than before. Blain soon joined us in the channel as well. We made it through the rest of the raid that evening, sans Hellspectral, and at some point during that night, Blain typed a whisper over to me,

"You'll be hearing from him at some point in the near future."

I thanked him again for the intervention, but was still no less shocked that he performed it.

---

Right on schedule, Hellspectral contacted me a few days later, after sobering up and mustering the courage to face whatever wrath I had planned for him. He apologized profusely for his behavior, stating that he had let it get out of control, taking full responsibility -- he never once blamed anyone but himself. I admired his honesty and courage in finally stepping up; I was willing to work with players who accepted their shortcomings and made moves to solve them...since I had no shortage of similar faults. If I put the effort into improving, so could they, I thought it was a fair expectation to levy on my roster...

...but I couldn't help but wonder if I was going soft. Should I have given him the permanent boot? How many chances should a player get to prove themselves before the dreaded double-standard sets in?

11 comments:

Dagor said...

I had to deal with a similar situation about a year back, to make matters worse, I had missed that raid night and came back to a long thread in the officer forums about a certain tank being sloshed and acting out. It was a tenuous situation to say the least. He also came to me very humbly and begged for a second chance and promised that it would never happen again. It's been almost a year and thankfully, it hasn't. Unfortunately some of those friendship bridges were burned forever that night for him.

Shawn Holmes said...

@Dagor,

Thanks for sharing your story! I can imagine situations like these are far more common than guild leaders would like to believe.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I can one up that. It was my Raid Leader that did it. You want to talk about being caught between the devil and deep blue sea....

Hellspectral said...

I remember that night like it was yesterday I had a bad day and started drinking two hours before raid time. don't recall much of the boss fights but waking up the next day like wtf! I had to facebook Taba to hear about it.

David Parker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fred said...

You know, the beauty of all things with Hells was that no matter what happened, he was always humble enough to admit that he fucked up. Can't say the same for everyone.

Littlebear said...

Interesting.

I remember getting in the middle of a similar situation a few years later, but never knew you had seen it before...

LB

Ryley Foshaug said...

Wait... people went to raids sober?

-Sixfold

Nann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GuiltieGaming said...

"Wait... people went to raids sober?

-Sixfold"

There were a few occasions I did...not many...

I have heard this story so many times (being inducted into the DoD community a bit after its taking place) and it still puts a giant grin on my face. I have no shortage of stories from my drunken PvP ventures but picturing Hells announcing that "I'm going to go take a nap" and then passing out mid-raid is fkin' amazing. Lol.

Edited - spelling

Dagor said...

Some of my guilds finest first time kills have come with half the raid drinking heavily. Sometimes it helps to just remove the tension and let people relax and do their jobs. There is certainly a fine line to toe though.

Also @Shawn, good to see a fellow WoW Pug lover on the interwebz!