Anytime you put two or more people together you run a chance of having a problem form. Even the best of friends can have arguments and problems from time to time. We are all in this to have a good time and when there is an undercurrent of frustration, it affects everyone involved.
Ignoring a problem because it seems small is an easy mistake to make. No one likes conflict, but as officers, we volunteer for a job knowing that dealing with these situations comes with the office. If you do not address the situations early, it will often grow to be a bigger issue. The result of this can be disciplinary actions and loss of participation and members. To have a strong organization we have to figure out how to treat each other with respect and courtesy.
As officers, members come to us with their issues and problems. They are often angry when they do so. Stay calm and remember that the member is angry at the situation and not at you personally. Keeping your temper in check throughout the conflict resolution process is extremely important.
When you have players who are causing issues or not getting along with each other, it is sometimes hard to know when to step in. Players who constantly disrupt gamethrough outbursts during scenes, arguing with staff, or trying to metagame are fairly easy to spot, but can be hard to deal with. You may be tempted to placate a player and see if things improve. More often than not this leads to more frustration for everyone involved.
Sometimes the problem is simply personality conflicts. People with opposing viewpoints or personalities may not get along. At first they may try to avoid each other and not deal with the issues , but may grumble to other members. This does not help the situation and causes the stress level to build.
As issues between two or more players builds, a rift can form within a domain. People take sides and some will stop coming to game all together. As an officer, you need to be able to see both sides of the issue. If you are unable to do this impartially, then involve a higher level officer from the regional or national staff to help resolve the situation.
There are many situations that can arise and cause potential problems. Listen to your players, don’t ignore minor issues and hope they get better on their own; they won’t. If you feel that tension is building between members, don’t be afraid to approach them and discuss the issue. Until a problem is brought to light, it can’t be fixed.
Dealing with the Issues
For outbursts or arguing, cool down periods are an excellent tool that allows those involved to take a step back and take time to get their emotions under control. Any member can request a cool down for himself and walk away. Officers can also call for a cool down for a situation and any members that the officer finds necessary. A cool down period can last up to 24 hours.
Open discussion is another tool that can be used to address potential problems before they escalate. Open discussion can be face-to-face, by phone, or electronic medium. This is a way of addressing an issue in the early stages before it becomes a problem. It gets the issues out in the open and makes everyone aware of the potential problems and different perspectives.
If open discussion does not work, the next step is Mediation. This requires an agreed upon third party to become involved to help with conflict resolution. Mediation is also a way of addressing the issue and can help facilitate both sides feel they are being heard. Having a mediator to help direct the conversation and give constructive points to the meeting can result in both sides understanding the other’s perspective.
Mediators in MES are rarely professional counselors and this step in the conflict resolution process does not always help the situation. If someone isn’t comfortable in the role of mediator, they should ask that someone else mediate. The mediator must be someone with no conflict of interest in the situation and who both parties can agree on. The most important part of mediation is getting both sides to see each other’s points of view and trying to find some common ground. Encourage your members to keep an open mind when it comes to mediation. You may want to contact the regional coordinator for tips on mediation or ask if a member of the regional staff, such as the ARC Arbitration, can act as mediator.
When Conflict Resolution Doesn’t Help
Not every situation has a happy ending. There are times when, no matter what you do, the two members are just not going to get along. This is when the two members have to agree that they are not going to see eye to eye and agree to treat each other respectfully and professional within the club.
If the problem persists after this point, it is time to involve the Regional staff to address the issue. Regional officers have a wealth of knowledge and experience in dealing with problems between members, so don’t feel as though you are alone in dealing with the situation.
There are also times, during the conflict resolution process, that someone crosses a line and you have to switch from Conflict Resolution to Investigation. No one likes issuing Disciplinary Actions, however they are designed to correct inappropriate behavior that is against MES rules. Be as fair and impartial as possible and if you find yourself unable to do that, contact the Regional Coordinator or Storyteller to take over the investigation.
When issues between players arises, it is key to address them early and with impartiality. Get advice from your supervising officer if you begin to feel overwhelmed or if you feel that you have a conflict of interest in the situation. Never ignore a problem and hope that it sorts itself out. Addressing the problems early can help to prevent a bigger issue that could potentially do damage to your domain or venue.
Don’t Beat a Dead Horse
Not all problems can be solved within the organization. There are times when two people simply cannot get along. That is why there is a code of conduct that all members are required to adhere to. The code of conduct is not a stick with which to beat people over the head, but rather a guide in how to treat each other even when two people cannot get along.