I posted a lengthy response over at World Of Matticus which I've decided to repeat here. As usual Matticus is at his most thought-provoking on the subject of guild management and 5 phases in the cycle of drama is an excellent read.
If it’s any consolation Matt, these things are cyclical and drama will become less of a problem once the toy cupboard is stocked with new Ulduar-flavoured toys.
I think you’re correct in your analysis that silence leads to explosions but I think that the inference that communication is the answer is less sure.
There are a lot of people on the internet in general and playing WoW in particular who don’t bother to be polite. Historically, politeness evolved in violent cultures where if you annoyed someone you could be killed. In medieval Japan the practice of “cutting and going away” whereby an offended member of the samurai class had the legal right to kill an offensive commoner has left a legacy of extraordinary civility amongst Japanese people to this day. In medieval Europe chivalry evolved as a series of polite forms to stop strangers from killing each other.
In WoW if you want a smoother ride encourage politeness. If people feel free to trash-talk guildies your guild will probably suffer unless there is a specific reason why it thrives on edginess (perhaps a pvp guild or an aggressively competitive server first type guild).
To some extent politeness means that the officers need to reign in those who feel entitled to be rude to whoever disagrees with them.
It’s a fact of life that you can’t build a team of 30+ players without some of them disliking at least one other person. Politeness is a way of keeping the conflict from escalating.
This is why people in offices are generally polite. They don’t necessarily like their co-workers, they may even detest someone, but because everyone is expected to be polite they co-exist without exploding into drama that might damage the organisation.
In other words it’s healthy to have a general expectation that adult players should be responsible for managing their own frictions rather than expecting them to require paternalistic management of their relationships with other players.
If players in a guild don’t get on it’s usually one of the following:
1) pecking order (ie “don’t give me advice on how to play and be right damn you - you’ve only been here a month and I’m one of the main healers since Kara”).
3) cultural differences (”what’s wrong with calling people slags? we all called each other slags in my old guild?”)
4) rivalry for raid spots or loot
Pecking order disputes are hard to identify since the participants won’t see them as pecking order disputes. Generally once we’ve identified that this is the problem the best approach seems to be to tell them to leave each other alone. (”I was only being helpful!” “Yes I know but just stop, ok?”). You won’t solve this type of problem by getting them to talk to each other.
Misunderstandings are usually exposed and put to bed by openness about what was said and what the intentions were.
Cultural differences are best nipped in the bud early. These can be identified during trials when the individuals are at their most receptive, change them then if possible.
Rivalry issues are best defused by having clearly stated sign-ups and loot systems that allow people to know where they stand. Sometimes they arise because guild leadership has been pretty thoughtless. My last guild believed in having 5 mages and 2 mage spots, one of which was given to the 99% active assistant raid leader. They should have simply let the numbers go down or taken more mages to raids but they did neither. Playing a mage in that guild meant being benched more than raiding but that only applied to mages not to other classes.