The No Asshole Rule: Constructing a Civilized Guild

The No Asshole Rule: Constructing a Civilized Guild

This is one of the tougher pieces I’ve written. I had to wrestle with my internal conscience about how to properly word it. I couldn’t think of anything else better than asshole. I’ll probably end up turning away a few readers as a result, but this is something that has to be written.

Every time we play WoW, we interact with various people. We interact with people in partys. We interact with players in trade chat or out in the world. And there is no place we interact more then in our own guild. Whether you care to admit it or not, most guilds have an asshole. I’m not talking about the jerk who likes to get on his fat mount and block the quest turn in guy. Or the jackass who likes to hop up and down on your fishing bobber.

No, the assholes I’m talking about represent a type of cancer in your guild. You might be aware of it but most of you might not be.

This post is intended to be a wakeup call.

Several years ago when I was just a sophomore Priest, I went into a raid instance called Blackwing Lair. Throughout those weeks, I battle hard through every aspect of the zone. I pulled off the suppression room, mopped the floor with Vaelastrasz, Broodlord, and Firemaw. Spent hours practicing and then defeating Chromaggus until I came upon Nefarian before he fell.

A piece of Transcendence dropped and I was in line for it next. It was awarded to me and the elated feeling that players received after killing a boss and getting upgrades swept over me. Then another healer in the group sent me a whisper.

“Grats on the robe. Nice to be in a guild that awards loot to undeserving players.”

The feelings of joy vanished in an instant. I went from feeling the best to feeling like complete crap.

The Two Tests

Dr. Robert Sutton came up with two tests to determine when a person is acting like an asshole.

  1. After talking to the alleged asshole, does the ““target” feel oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled by the person? In particular, does the target feel worse about him- or herself?
  2. Does the alleged asshole aim his crap at people who are less powerful rather than those who are more powerful?

While some assholes are fully capable of doing damage publicly through guild chat, forums or ventrilo in front of your guild, there are some who are able to do their dirty work in private and are much tougher to catch.

12 Common Everyday Actions that Assholes Use

I’ll bold the ones that I believe are possibly relevant to you and your guild. This list is right out of Sutton’s book as well.

  1. Personal insults
  2. Invading one’s personal territory
  3. Uninvited physical contact
  4. Threats and intimidation, both verbal and nonverbal
  5. Sarcastic jokes and teasing used as insult delivery systems
  6. Withering e-mail flames
  7. Status slaps intended to humiliate their victims
  8. Public shaming or status degradation rituals
  9. Rude interruptions
  10. Two-faced attacks
  11. Dirty looks
  12. Treating people as if they’re invisible

All of us have acted like assholes at one point or another. Some days we lose our cool. It happens. We just have to do a better job of trying to control. I’ve lost my temper before and I’ve said things that I regretted immediately.

But the certified guild asshole? He has a level of persistence around him. He has a history of the consistently results in one person after another feeling like crap. They feel humiliated. Disrespected. De-energized. Constricted. Suffocated. In the end, they just feel really bad about how they are.

In short, the certified asshole gets the title because they are always treating people like crap around them.

Do you realize that you spend 15 bucks a month to play WoW? Where does it say you have to spend those 15 bucks playing alongside assholes who do nothing but treat you like garbage everytime you’re on? You deserve a lot better than that. There have even been studies that have shown that interacting with assholes often can lead to physical health problems like anxiety, fatigue, anger and depression.

An asshole can have a serious negative effect in your guild because they suck the life and energy out of people through smaller and seemingly insignificant act as opposed to one or two flareups. Consider the officer who reminds a healer that “he sucks” at healing every chance he gets. Or continues to belittle them with questions like “Why are you so bad?” It’s annoying and its utterly stupid.

The human brain perceives negative interactions in a bigger way than positive interactions. Sutton states that negativity can have an effect that’s five times more powerful than a positive statement. It takes a lot of support from positive people to help counteract the energy drained by one asshole.

The No Asshole Rule

If only it were unnecessary for guilds to not need the no asshole rule. Its quite simple.

It is entirely possible to have a productive and constructive guild without resorting to destructive methods.

Set clear expectations and standards of your players. How they should act and how they should conduct themselves. The moment any one of them pushes the line or crosses it, you have to take action. If they treat people like dirt in a pickup group or master loot themselves a trinket in a run they organize, there is no place for such behavior.

You don’t have to be an asshole to get the message across to someone. It can be done critically and it can be done firmly. More importantly, it can be done in a civil fashion.

Enforce the rule or don’t have it at all

You know what’s worse then having an asshole in the guild? Not doing anything about it when the rules specifically state that such assholeish behavior isn’t allowed.

It ends up being nothing more then a paper tiger.

Why do guilds put up with it?

There’s a belief in that having negative outbursts are character flaws that become tolerated if people are talented, intelligent and harder to replace. Talent can justify guilds looting items to these douchebags and we end up sending this message:

If you’re really good at what you do, you can get away with being a really big asshole. Actually this isnt just limited to guilds as it applies anywhere you go, really. Whether its at work or at school, the philosophy appears to be the same.

If you display words about treating people with respect but allow or even encourage the opposite behavior, it becomes useless. You end up being seen as a hypocrite and as a cynic. Players will lose faith in you and in the guild itself. Assholes multiply. When players see a person acting like one and is left unchecked, they’ll give in to their own inner rage and start doing the same thing.

Either enforce the rule or don’t implement it at all.

Life is too short for you to work and play among assholes.


I do want to encourage you to pick up this book if you’re into management or leadership. Heck, even if you’re just looking for a good book to read. Maybe you’re a teacher or you work in an office. There’s a chapter on how to deal and cope with assholes. It’s called the The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t by Dr. Robert Sutton.

Open Discussion: How Do You Improve Players Without Coming out as an Arrogant Jerk?

Open Discussion: How Do You Improve Players Without Coming out as an Arrogant Jerk?

Image courtesy of kalilo

The above picture is quite fitting. The shot is of one bear standing atop of a log looking down at another bear. It’s almost as if the tall bear is trying to tell the other bear that his technique of catching fish is incorrect. I suspect that both bears engage in a bear-like scrap which involves tussling the opponent around until they both run out of breath and call it a draw.

This leads me to today’s open discussion post. I’m going to describe to you a completely and entirely hypothetical situation.


Let’s assume for the moment that I’ve lost several healers over the course of two weeks. The fact that it really did happen has no bearing at all whatsoever on his hypothetical scenario.

We take on 3 extra healers, all considerably green in terms of experience and gear. They’ve done Black Temple and Hyjal a combined 5 times. Their health is not up to par. Their spec is even more puzzling. The primary reason we take them is because if we don’t, we are effectively paralyzed.

Again, hypothetically speaking.

You understand my beliefs in the matter. A raiding guild that is not raiding is not a raiding guild.

I want to help

I want to do whatever I can to get these players developed and up there in no time. But attacking a healer’s technique, gear, spec, and situational awareness can be a bit disorienting all at the same time. Unfortunately, my guild doesn’t exactly have a lot of time to spend waiting around for them to see the light. So I have to shine a really large bulb in their eyes right now so that changes can be made as quick as possible in order to balance the ship.

Did anyone who read that last paragraph understand what I was trying to say there?

In other words, if I get all nice and touchy-feely I might not get taken seriously enough. If I don’t get taken seriously enough, then they will still continue their mistakes and inefficiencies. If that continues, I will have to eventually turn to look for other solutions and I start right at the beginning going through the processes again.

On the other hand, if I come on too strong, they become defensive and tone deaf to the suggest improvements that I offer. This results in them nodding and of course, not doing as I ask.

Where are all the healers?

I don’t exactly have a whole lot of healers barging down my door begging to apply. I have to work with what I have. Skipping straight from T4 instances to T6 would just about overload anyone.

As my distant cousin Carlos Juan Atticus would say, "you loco, ese".

How can I possibly pack six months worth of raiding skill, information, and knowledge into a two week trial period? Because that’s all the time I have before these guys either sink or swim. We let them go in favour of looking for new ones. There is no readme file on how to be an awesome healer. Compressing information such as positioning, healer smarts, situational awareness, and all these big mumbo jumbo terms is tough.

Which leads me to…

I have to trim down all this fat. I have to tell them what they need to know, what they need to do, how to do it, when to do it, and why they should do it. Don’t ask me why, but people find it reassuring to know why they are doing the things they do. Do you know how amazingly cooperative people get if you give them a perfectly logical reason as to why they should do something?

Example, every time you see a Doomfire, abandon healing your tank and run. Why? Because they’ll die if they don’t. A dead healer is a useless healer.

Never forget my principles.

I want these players to get better so that I don’t have to bring in a new batch of healers to shepherd. 3 hours of my time is spent in the raid. When I handle assignments and briefings on what healers are doing, I do it several trash pulls before. This way, I don’t waste time when we get in front of a new boss and spend 10 minutes explaining exactly what we’re doing, where, when, how, and why.

It’s quite satisfying to hear my raid leaders call out for various things to find them already done.

"We need Shadow Resist buff."
"Did anyone tell the new priest what they’r-"
"By the way, Lang needs a fear war-"
"Already up and 10 seconds in."
"So the paladin knows who to hea-"
"Yeah, main tank, can we pull now?"

I wonder how many man hours I’ve saved.

About me

I am an extremely direct person. If I want something, I’m going to say it. If I see something wrong, I’m going to mention it. My trouble is that I want to convey my thoughts in a manner where I won’t come out as an ass yet can instill a sense of urgency.

Let’s talk about specs.

Let’s hypothetically assume there is a Priest with a 21/40 build (that’s Divine Spirit without the improved, and the Circle of Healing without the Circle of Healing).

Can you tell me what is wrong with that?

A normal person might say nothing. It’s a perfectly decent spec and players should be allowed to spec however they want. Empowered Healing does increase base flash heal and greater heal by a sizeable margin, to be sure.

The healing lead would have alarm bells go off in their heads. Can you tell me why? In a raid, there are 25 players allowed. A certain percentage consist of tanks, DPS, and healers.

This is the argument that I would make and that I would say but I would just feel so guilty of saying (I do have a guilt complex).

"Bob, you know, you’re an excellent healer. You do what you’re told and heal who you’re asked to heal. You’ve been a tremendous service to the Guild. But I’m in a tough bind here. I can only let in 7 healers at a time and you don’t exactly supply a lot of options for yourself. You’re specced Spirit without the Improved Spirit. You also don’t have Circle of Healing. Why should I take you? You’re useless to me. Give me a reason to take you. I want to take you in, I really do. But when I weigh you against the other potential classes, it looks quite grim."

Of course, Bob, the ever so brilliant opportunist would counter with the fact that I don’t have a lot of options to choose from. This brings me back to my opening question. How do you improve players without giving the impression of an arrogant jerk? Because frankly, I am one. But that’s because I care.

I did mention this was all hypothetical, right? This is the kind of material that gets pumped out when a blogger sits idle in a chair with his eyes closed.

It’s quite refreshing.