Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Guest Post: Handling Raid Chatter

Jessabelle is a fellow alliance member and raid leader who sent me a wonderfully written email yesterday and told me I could publish it if I wanted to. Well, I want to. Its good to show other views and this one is from a priest healer/RL who has run with me at the helm on numerous occasions. As such, I definitely value her input on the situation and she makes some good points.

For context, you should realize that, as she points out, we are part of a casual raiding alliance. "Casual" being because scheduling is the hardest part of what we do. We have extremely talented players, many of whom do lots of research on more than one class. As such, vent can sometime light up with about 7 different ways to do things, all of which are completely valid and good. It just can make things chaotic in a pinch. I've often been known to give the directive: "feel free to ignore anything not from me, the RL".

It's not that we don't value every one's input; far from it. It's just that sometimes it gets in the way of focusing on your job, personally. As Jess points out, finding where to draw this line is crucial and difficult at best. You have to take care as a RL to encourage being helpful and discourage confusing people while not letting those work against each other. It is very much a tight rope walking act... or something like that.

Anyways, without further ado, read for yourself:

As our alliance is made up of several different guilds, we get separate feedback from our individual guilds. One of the complaints made in my guild is “too many chiefs” - Too many people giving orders. Most of the time, this is nothing more than a slight annoyance for people being led. Other times, it can have disastrous consequences, such as someone who is not the RL calling for a wipe, and there being complete confusion.

We also try to keep a very friendly atmosphere, and I personally will beat up anyone who is being rude or snarky. So it’s definitely not easy, as a raid leader, to assert one’s authoritay, and tell someone to stop shouting out orders during a boss fight. Especially if the boss fight isn’t going well, as it makes an already tense situation worse. It is a bit easier when the person in question is a friend or someone in your own guild.

This is probably a common problem for raid leaders in general, especially if you are in a more casual raiding environment where everyone has input. I like that everyone has input. Many of the suggestions people have given me in raid have been very good ones. "You mean I can cast circle of healing on someone other than myself? Duh." It helps us all learn to be better players. But, there is a time and a place for it.

While I like the idea of everyone having equal input, and things such as loot and boss strategies being up for discussion, the one time when it’s really not okay is during boss fights. I think this happens because in the heat of the moment, everyone wants everyone else to be doing their best. In many situations, it is an attempt to be helpful; not condescending or rude.

How you handle it, as a raid leader, depends on your RL style, and the person in question. You can kindly tell them to can it. You can speak to them via whisper, asking them to redirect their comments and suggestions to you so that you can give the raid orders. I personally think the most important thing is that you do not chastise them in front of the rest of the raid –this leads to someone being even more defensive, and causing other problems. Once you’ve addressed the situation privately with the person calling out orders when he or she shouldn't, then, if time and situation allows, it is a good idea to privately whisper anyone who might have complained about it that you are addressing the situation.

The situation needs to be diffused before tempers start to flare, and people really start to go at one another with claws bared. My biggest suggestion for this scenario is to handle as much of it as possible via whisper, so as to not publicly attack anyone in front of the raid, or on vent.

I and my sometimes-but-not-always-better half are backup raid leaders, stepping in whenever one of the other RLs need a night off, and last night we were in a raid in which we were not leaders. We had a similar situation, and, from my perspective, the RL handled it this way, and I thought he did a fantastic job. It’s not a great situation in which to find oneself, and you cannot completely prevent there being some bitterness on all sides when you walk away from the raid at the end of the night. However, the most important task as the raid leader is to keep everyone cool enough to function properly in the raid. Unfortunately, you cannot always avoid offending someone as the raid leader, but the best you can do is try to be fair and make decisions that are best for the group as a whole.

Well said, Jess. I think the biggest thing to note here is how walking that fine line between "too much" leadership and "too little" can often mean the difference between wipe night and KT downing cheers. A lot of that is on the RL, but not all. As a "follower" in a raid you also need to be willing and able to speak up, accept critique, and move on when a decision is made. If people hold onto grudges and don't focus on what's best for the team (as decided by the RL in which you've placed your trust by showing up), you won't have a very successful crew.

I think, as a whole, this is what really makes our alliance special. It isn't that we don't have the occasional problem that will crop up anytime you get 10 or 25 people together. It's that we keep focused on the end goal and realize that, at heart, everyone wants the same thing. We just may not always agree on how to get there. The key to being able to work as a team is being able to put the feelings of the team before your own feelings. Difficult to do unless you have special people.


  1. Ugh... am pretty sure i am the target of this post in the sense that i was the "troublemaker" in the story. OH well, i just have this tendency to want to RL and help everyone even when i am not the RL. Heh, i just have to get used to being a random bloke in a raid. Takes some getting used too ;). I blame my desire to be a leader! Damn you world for raising my expectations of myself! Heh, and yes i agree with both Jess and Ful here, Raid leading and dealing with raid chatter is difficult, having been on both sides, and the best way to deal with it is to talk it out in whispers. Course your also right that people will take it personally, at least at first, but generally they will calm down and see that what is being done is for the greater good.

    /salute Jess and Ful

    Thanks for helping to show me the path to better leadership, one lesson at a time.

  2. Eh, I wouldn't take it personally.

    As a group we have a bad habit of chatter period. And mostly, as we're pointing out here, its just the during the fight stuff. The pre-fight stuff we want to keep as is, because I like having input from everyone. I can't tell you how many times I've been in raids where they're just "doing it wrong" and I have to bite my tongue and just do what I'm told and we wipe. I don't want anyone in my raids to have that feeling like their input isn't wanted. At least in my raids, you can usually say you voiced your opinion, and they didn't take it, so it is on them. It really helps with learning I've found, since people generally think they're right until proven otherwise.

    Where a truly smooth raid shines is when NO ONE has to speak in vent during a fight. Everyone is confident in everyone else to do their own job. We're not quite there yet, especially since we're an alliance and not guildies, but that's where I want to get to.

    You gotta be real comfortable with the fights to get there first though.

  3. Point being, personally, I wouldn't trade your experience, vine, because you really do your homework on the fights. Not everyone in our corner of the world reads up as much, and so the knowledge is needed. I don't get to read nearly as much as I'd like either, as a lot of time is spent on other crap (like scheduling).

    Basically, everyone has their role. RL is just a name tag, how you behave is what makes you a leader. A lot of that is knowing when to speak up and when to shut up. It's hard.

    Also, remember that being "too" helpful is a good problem to have, and remember that some people are receptive to some methods of "help". You're challenge as a leader is to figure out what works for THEM. Meeting them on their playing field, so to speak.

    I want to say more because this is a really good topic and Vine is one of the best players I know, but I've already commented enough on my own post :-).

  4. *aren't

    golly three for me... anyone else?

  5. I would agree that Vent chatter will slowly quiet down during fights when we all become more knowledgeable of the fights and of our own group memebers.

    I have to laugh sometimes because Ful is guilty of this as well during difficult & confusing bosses. Even after running with me for almost a year in this game, we continue to yell at each other during these times. It becomes very frustrating and often times not very helpful. I know that we are both trying the best that we can, but someone else has a different view point of that same fight.

    The best thing that I can say when faced with this scenerio is to just sit back & watch what happens. People will suprise you when you least expect it :)

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Awww, Vine, trust me, it wasn't all about you! It was also about me, and several people on our team, and all over. I have been making a concerted effort to not over-talk Darf when he's leading a raid, because I assure you, I've received complaints about myself.

    One of those many delicate ropes we all have to walk as raid members AND leaders is how to make suggestions to other people. The tone of one's voice over vent, or the exact words one chooses to tell Jessabelle to start using Circle of Healing on other people can make a world of a difference XD

    EDIT: I fail at commas.

  8. Some of this can be addressed technologically. Ventrilo has options for prioritizing who can talk, and users can do things to minimize noise and disruption. I will post in greater detail about this elsewhere...

  9. To me, using the program to limit talk would be a last step. Not that it isn't a good idea, just that I want my raiders to NOT feel censored or held back by "rules". It's kind of how we roll as an alliance (I made a post previously about messing with late rules, and how hard of a time we were having just trying to make it work without being "disciplinary").

    I think it is more of a respect and learning issue that needs to be addressed in a group of regular runners. It would be great to set that heirarchy up for a PuG environment though.

  10. I think that Option would be great if you were running in a PuG with umm lets say...


    just my two copper ;)

  11. Aww, leave Batley out of this. He's a character :-).