“The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.” ―Eddard Stark
It’s actually taken me a while to figure out why this is one of my least favorite parts of my position as raid lead. Not because I expected to enjoy firing people, that seems unreasonably cruel, but because I tend to be a highly pragmatic person. I certainly don’t have any trouble correcting someone when I feel they’re not performing up to snuff in raid. I don’t have any particular issues with social anxiety. If anything I’m a touch misanthropic. But having to actually remove someone from the raid team, not through a schedule misalignment or having them leave for another team, really does bother me. And after some extended reflection on the subject I’ve come to the following conclusion.
Giving somebody a spot on our raid team is a vote of confidence. Further than that it’s an extension of trust. I, and by extension the officers and team in general, am trusting you. I’m trusting you to show up on time. I’m trusting you to do your best to get along with your teammates. I’m trusting you to continue researching your class. I’m trusting you to love this game the way we do. And by the time we get to the firing stage that trust has in some way been violated.
There are a handful of ways to get to that point. Sometimes someone simply didn’t fit in socially and it caused waves or, god forbid, drama. Sometimes they’ve lost their passion for the game and aren’t keeping up on their class knowledge or maintenance activities. Sometimes I’ve simply been too generous with a raid spot, an occurrence that is guaranteed to happen in a guild as newbie-friendly as ours, and they completely lack sufficient skills or dedication to be on the team. And when we get to one of these states, I always feel a bit responsible. Which has led me to make and stand by a policy of mine.
If someone is going to be removed from the team, it’s the raid-leader’s responsibility to do it. I gave them the ultimate thumbs-up. Most raiders go through an approval process with the officers, especially now as we attempt to make that ever-difficult transition from friends-and-family raid team to a team capable of rapid mythic progression. But ultimately if someone is on the team it’s because I let them on the team and to have to remove them makes me feel like I’ve failed them in some way. I agreed to give them a raid spot. I agreed to lead them to the best of my ability. I also agreed to put sufficient resources at their disposal, be it knowledgeable class leads or accurate learning material, to allow them to raid at the level we expect, provided they put in the necessary work.
But somewhere along the line I made a misjudgment. I may have misjudged their ability. I may have misjudged their personality. I may have misjudged their passion for the game. An error was made somewhere, and for that fact alone I owe it to them to make their removal as personal and cordial as I can.
You remove people over voice chat. Think of it like breaking up with someone. No hiding behind in game mails or chat windows. They deserve to hear it from you, not via text or rumor-mill. For many raid leaders it’s possible that this isn’t an issue. But if it’s something you’re hesitant about or have trouble with, think of it as the price of your additional authority. You wanted to be the one in charge, (if you didn’t that’s a whole other problem) which means you get some of the dirty jobs along with the additional privileges.
Don’t make it any more personal than it has to be. The goal is not to make them feel like they’ve failed. The goal is to let them know where the discontinuity is. Somehow this raider and the team at large have fallen out of sync. Either they’re unwilling or unable to raid at the expected level or they’re unable to mesh socially with the team for one reason or another. Let them know what the problem is. If you’ve been doing your job as raid-leader properly then their dismissal shouldn’t come as a surprise. Almost everyone I’ve had to remove from our team so far has pretty much known what was coming when I first called them in vent.
Personally, assuming I’m not removing someone for being a truly horrible human being, I like to take some time to let them know what their strengths are. There’s no need for false flattery, but they’re already going to be a little emotionally vulnerable at this point, there’s no harm in softening the blow a bit. Once they know why you’re parting ways, feel free to throw in one of their strengths. They must have some, otherwise they wouldn’t be raiding with you. Call out their raid awareness, solid mechanics, or even positive attitude.
Finally, thank them. Every time you get to zone into a raid, it’s because the other 9 or 24 people on your raid team took the time to show up and join you. Raiding is by definition a group effort. So thank them for the time they’ve put in on your team, and wish them well in the future. Were the positions reversed, you would want them to do the same for you.