DEAR MISS MANNERS: I manage and play for a men’s softball team. It involves a lot of work, time and tribulation to ensure enough players come to the games, and that the right players do so (not everyone is capable of pitching).
A player who joined a year and a half ago committed to coming several times, but in the end did not arrive, and did not even tell us that he was not coming. Once, we called him from the field -- thinking maybe he got caught in traffic and would be five minutes late -- and he informed us in an indignant way that he was working at the office and could not come.
“Why didn’t you tell us, Jordan?”
“Well, *I* have to work,” he said. “I don’t know about the other guys; maybe they have schedules that allow them a lot of time off.”
I took him off the email list. Who needs the grief?
My co-manager, however, still had faith. He asked Jordan to come to a practice, and bet me a beer that he would come through. He had promised him twice, after all.
Guess who won?
I sent Jordan a text message that night, saying, “Thanks for the beer.” That’s all. Didn’t yell at him, didn’t call him names, nothing like that.
Oh boy, was Jordan angry and insulted. He messaged me back with an indignant “I was at work until 9:30 at night,” and the next day left a voice message demanding an apology.
He called me a few days later and told me he didn’t like my attitude, and that he thinks I don’t want him on the team. Truth is, I’m not so hot about it, but there have been times when we could have used him. So I told him that he says one thing, and doesn’t follow through. We can’t manage a team like that.
Should I apologize to him for that text message? Should I ignore him, like he did us? I don’t really want him on the team, as it has become more trouble than it’s worth, but should I allow him to “repent” and rejoin?
GENTLE READER: You have pitched Miss Manners softball questions (you can pass off the taunting as kidding) rather than the hard one to which you really need an answer.
She is not the one you need to convince not to let Jordan back on the team, a decision you have already reached on your own. You need to convince your co-manager, and herein lies the challenge. The reason both corporations and sports clubs give for establishing policies about attendance and behavior is so that everyone knows what is expected of them -- and what the punishment is for noncompliance. A level playing field, as the saying goes.
Those policies, not coincidentally, also absolve managers of making excruciating decisions. Work out general rules with your club and co-manager -- how many absences lead to a suspension, how long a suspension lasts, and so on -- and apply them in each specific case. This will also help you avoid childish arguments over whether someone’s reasons for being perpetually absent without warning are, or are not, morally superior.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)