159: Wielding Authority

Portuguese: 159: Utilizando Autoridade

Purpose of this Document

The purpose of this document is to educate MES Officers on the meaning of authority, the basis on which it is granted to the Officers, and to what ends they should use that authority.

What is Authority

Authority refers to a claim of legitimacy in representing an idea or position of power.  This legitimacy is granted by a group or governing body supporting that individual’s right to communicate an idea or an ideal, or fulfill a specific role on their behalf.  This can be seen in how a University supports the claims of its Graduates, or a Church supports its Priests, and particularly in how a country supports its governors.

Officers of the Mind’s Eye Society are granted their Authority by the members of our club for the purpose of fulfilling specific obligations and enforcing certain rules as defined in our charter and membership handbook.

Officers and Authority

Authority is granted to the officers to fulfill certain roles within our club.  We divide that authority between three groups: The Coordinator Chain, the Storyteller Chain, and the Board of Directors.  Each office is assigned a set of duties or jobs to handle on behalf of the club, and the Authority to carry those obligations out.

When we discuss the obligations of our Authority it covers several facets: Fulfill duties as assigned, deal with members and all others in a professional manner, take responsibility for issues that arise, enforce the club’s rules, and above all else do our best to make sure everyone is treated fairly and having fun.  There are several resources that give us an idea on how to take care of these obligations, including the Membership Handbook and many of the other education documents.

The primary source for information on the aspects and duties of an officer’s position is Chapter 6 of the Mind’s Eye Society Membership Handbook, which defines certain roles for each of the officer positions including the Board of Directors.  Of course, with the size and diversity of the club not every specific office is listed, but generalizations are given to provide scope to the types of duties each office will cover.  In all cases, the officers are given the Authority to make determinations as to the best way to approach those obligations within set policy, and to request aid from lower officers and other club members as needed to help make sure those job functions are fulfilled.

It is important to know that in many cases the job duties will expand beyond those listed in the handbook.   For example, a Coordinator might take on the task at the behest of the club of keeping and caring for props and supplies that a venue uses on a regular basis.  While not technically within the Coordinator’s official job description, this may be a duty that has been given as a part of that office by the members of the club, and the coordinator granted the Authority to manage the keeping and well-being of those supplies.  It falls to the officer to fulfill these roles given to them, whether through their own time or delegation to an assistant.

When considering the authority that officers are given to perform their roles, it is important to know that they are also given a responsibility to handle them in a manner that the club has deemed to be reasonable. In prior Ethics lessons we discussed Professionalism, Conflicts of Interest, and Recognizing and Correcting problems.  These lessons should have provided an idea on how an officer should act while in a position of authority, and some information on the restrictions and responsibilities of that authority.  When dealing with the members of the club it’s important to keep these lessons in mind as they provide guidance on when and where it is appropriate to use your authority.  This becomes especially important when handling issues such as disciplinary actions and appeals.

Chapter 8 of the Membership Handbook specifically covers the nature of disciplinary actions and investigations.  It becomes particularly important that we observe the ideals of professionalism and fairness when handling these aspects of our office.  Officers must be careful to observe certain boundaries, not just in these instances, but in all aspects of the office.

Wielding Authority and Setting Personal Policy

As officers within the Mind’s Eye Society we are given the authority to govern and make decisions for the club that will affect our friends and fellow players.  In many cases it will be hard to be fair when it comes to making judgment calls that may engender negative feelings from our peers.  The solution to this issue is to put in place boundaries, or policies, on ourselves and the members in regards to the authority we wield.  If we do this, then we will find that it is easier to treat everyone fairly and equally, and that our peers will come to respect us more for it.  Every education document in the 100 series will help to give you an idea of what these policies are.

Without these policies it is easy for members to fall into one of two extremes: Wielding the authority of their position to put on accolades and abuse their station, or becoming a yes man who tries to make everyone happy and has no control over the office.  Officers must be careful that they follow the rules and policies set forth by the club to avoid doing either of these things.

When making decisions or acting within the realm of their authority, officers will want to consider the policies and standards that have been set in place by other officers and the Membership handbook.  It is also good to set some personal policies that will help ensure that everyone is treated fairly.   Every officer will have to determine for themselves what personal policies they will keep, but here are a few that might considered and use as an example to make new ones:

  1. Keep meeting and game time focused.  Personal conversations can wait until afterwards or at socials.  Be all business when it is time to do business.

  2. Field every complaint the same.  Set a personal policy such as ‘complaints are to be delivered in written form.’

  3. Give everyone a chance to be heard before making a decision, whether in game or at a meeting.

  4. Give equal time and consideration to every member.  Set time limits on your interactions if need be to make sure one person isn’t taking up all of your time.

  5. Approve good applications, and deny those with poor, no matter who it is or how much you like them or their character.

  6. When you’ve set a new policy, stick to it.

Once an officer has determined their own policies, they will want to share them with the members they oversee. It is important to explain why the policy has been made.  Saying something along the lines of, “I won’t be discussing topics unrelated to game during our game time because I’ve been too distracted by it.”  If the members are aware of the policies, then they will be more likely to observe them and abide by them.

For more insight on this topic, read the ST Education Document 273: How to Say No (coming soon).