Monday, January 31, 2011

The Healer Dilemma

I fear I have discontent brewing in the healer ranks, centering around the needs of the raid vs the desires of the healers.

Putting together a 25-man raid is a balancing act.  You know that almost always, some people will be out.  Work will call them away, family will call them away, hockey practice or other activities will call them away, or their ISP will have problems, and their lag will be unsufferable.  It makes sense, then, to have more people on your roster than you can slot at the same time, to handle these unexpected happenings, lest a particular night be that night when you just don't have enough people to raid.

On the other hand, you can't have the same people waiting in the wings all the time.  I understand the absolute torture of being in Vent and not being in the instance when a new boss is about to go down.  I tend to go fishing if I am waiting on the bench, because I feel I am at least accomplishing something, even if I am grinding my teeth while doing it.  I know others, however, who have spent their entire bench time hopping from bench to bench in the Auction House.  Require someone to experience that enough, and that person will look elsewhere to raid.

Our raid leaders decided a while back that every member of the raid who showed up needed to have some time working on bosses each raiding week.  In this way, everyone gets a chance to play, and everyone learns the enounters, both recruits and members.  Also, this allows us to gear our newer recruits, as well, who can come in during encounters when the members do not need gear, if they have been sitting.  This means that everyone at one time or another takes their turn sitting out, including the officers.  (Hey, we try to lead by example . . .)

After all, what does the raid need?  The raid needs people to fill the ranks who know what they are doing and who are geared enough to handle it.  The best way we know of at this time to accomplish this is to have more healers (or other raiders) on our roster than the bare minimum required for a raid and rotate them in and out when they are there to allow everyone the chance to play.

Here's where it gets a little puzzling--a mixed blessing:  my healers have very good attendance, unlike some of the other roles.  No problem, right?  Be thankful we aren't short healers, right?  (Believe me, as Healing Lead, I've rejoiced that the healers are so diligent.)  But this means that we need to rotate healers on a regular basis.

Up to now, I've relied heavily on the generosity, good will, and team spirit of the healers to volunteer to sit out in favor of others in the raid.  But not all people have the same generosity and team spirit.  Not all are as dedicated as others to the progression of the raid and the guild as a whole.  Therefore, not all volunteer.

This inequity causes resentment on the part of those who do volunteer.  They see that they are sacrificing for the good of the raid, but others are not.  Why, then, should they make the effort when the same requirement is not made of others?

It is a valid point.  When we have recruited people, we have explained that we do not recruit people to sit on a bench and that everyone will rotate in and out.  We try to allow people to be in for bosses they need as much as possible, while recognizing that not everyone may be able to be in for every boss they want.  It was simpler in late Wrath, when everyone had pretty much all the badges they wanted and needed only a piece here or there to flesh out their Heroic set.  But at this point in Cataclysm, self-interest is high, and I have found that when someone who does not volunteer is sat (for the first time in Cataclysm raiding history) they may not react well, to put it mildly.

It does not matter that I might remind them that I, as an officer, was sitting for the guild first Atramedes kill.  I had been late that day because my daughters had a regularly-scheduled activity.  Could I have logged on and demanded to be put in the raid, especially after having been there for two weeks' worth of wiping?  Absolutely.  Would the raid leader have put me in?  Most likely yes; I'm the Healing Lead and I have the right and responsibility to select the healers for encounters.  But I have a certain sense of fairness and right which did not allow me to demand to be in solely on the basis of my seniority and rank, kicking people out who had been working on the fight for the previous half hour just for my vanity.  Whom would I have kicked?  Whom would I have denied the chance to see the kill, just so I could be in the screenshot?  Could I have lived with myself, knowing I had been so selfish, when I hope that the other healers will be generous with each other?  (Now, did I enjoy sitting out?  Not on your life.  Did I grumble to one friend?  Yes.  Did my husband see me cry?  Not going to tell you that one.  But doing what is right is not always easy.)

Now I have to tackle something else which is not easy.  I have to figure out a better rotation schedule for my healers.  At this point, I am going to stop asking for volunteers, with the vain hope that everyone will respond with generous impulses.  (If someone pipes up, volunteering to sit for someone else, I will probably work with them, because I do want to encourage that kind of generous impulse.  But I won't expect it.)  Everyone will sit at one point or another, whether they want to or not.  The majority of our healers agreed to this condition when they joined the raid.  (A few pre-date the practice, but to be honest, those who pre-date are among the generous.  After all, they have proven their loyalty to the best interest of the guild over tiers' worth of raiding.)

My husband, who has managed multi-million dollar companies for at least the last eight years, cautioned me against making my rotation too rigid.  "You don't want to tie your hands by attempting to 'dummy-proof' the system," he told me.  "If you publish a schedule, it will make it difficult for you to use your best judgment in each situation, because you will be bound to the published rotation.  Give yourself the room to be able to make adjustments as is appropriate for the raid at each encounter."

He's right, of course.  If I had to make adjustments to a posted schedule because someone's ISP wasn't working or because someone simply did not show up, it could cause grumbling.  (In addition, I could see a possibility that someone who wasn't slotted for the first couple bosses may not show up until later in the raid.)  So my rotation will not be published, but will be on my desk, where I can juggle things if necessary, but also keep track of who has been in and who has been out for each encounter.  In this manner, I hope to be able to better manage the healer rotations to accomplish the goal of guild progression and the supplemental goal of raider development.

Wish me luck.  Learning leadership is a constant progression . . .

Totally unrelated picture of my Val'anyr birdie . . .

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