Dean Richard Franza’s column appeared in the Sunday, May 23 edition of the Augusta Chronicle. The post can be viewed here.
Over the years, the game of baseball has had a number of “unwritten rules.” These rules are primarily in place to enforce better behavior and sportsmanship among its players.
For instance, one set of such rules is that you never steal bases, nor swing at 3-0 pitches (easiest pitches to hit), nor do anything else to score more when you are already ahead by a large margin. The goal of these actions is to respect your opponent by not “running up the score.” Another unwritten rule is to never “show up” your opponent by doing things such as flipping your bat and/or slowly trotting around the bases on a home run. When a team or player violates one or more of these rules, the unwritten punishment is for the other team to throw pitches at them as retaliation.
In recent years, it seems like the players and teams are no longer regularly adhering to unwritten rules. More and more players are doing flashy things to show up or disrespect the other team and its players. For instance, bat-flipping when hitting a home run has become an art form. Also, throwing at the other team’s batters is seen as a less acceptable way to manage good sportsmanship. Call me old-fashioned, but the lack of adherence to the unwritten rules of baseball is eroding the sportsmanship in the game.
Similarly, there also are myriad unwritten rules in business and in the workplace. I am not going to list them here, as you can go look them up on the internet. However, I have noticed that in business/the workplace, unwritten rules are going the way of unwritten rules in baseball. That is, people no longer feel like they need to do things that demonstrate fair play and respect for others.
While this may have been accelerated by the pandemic, we have been on a downward trend in these areas for a number of years. Please allow me to provide you with two examples.
One unwritten rule I have been familiar with throughout my life is that it is always better to have a job than not have a job, even if ample unemployment benefits are available. The ignoring of this rule has clearly been accelerated by the pandemic and the ongoing increased unemployment benefits that have been available. Currently, such benefits amount to about $600 per week, or project annually to a job paying more than $30,000. While those benefits were clearly necessary in the middle of the pandemic when there were massive layoffs and jobs were unavailable, they are not nearly as necessary now when the economy is recovering and jobs seem plentiful. However, when the median annual salary in the U.S. equates to about $40,000, many have determined that it is not worth working for the additional marginal income of $10,000.
However, this was not a concern until recently. People valued the skills developed on the job and the potential for increases in salary and wealth. Interestingly, President Joe Biden indicates that his father told him that a job is “about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity. It’s about respect.” Unfortunately, that unwritten rule does not seem to hold any longer as I speak to many local business owners and leaders who cannot find workers.
A recent incident that occurred with my younger daughter, AJ, demonstrated to me other unwritten rules of business/the workplace that are in peril. A few months ago, AJ, who just finished her junior year of college, interviewed for and accepted a very good internship for this summer. She likes the company, its culture and the terms and duties of the internship. She was scheduled to start the internship Monday, May 24.
However, about two weeks ago, she was contacted by another company that had provided her a sales training program with a number of other college students during the spring semester. They wanted to interview her for an internship this summer, and the interview seemed to be a formality, as they discussed with her the salary and other terms of the internship. Based on her training program, she really loved this company and really wanted to work there, and the salary was a little higher than her scheduled internship.
AJ was visiting home when this happened. When I returned home from work and we were eating dinner, she told me what happened. I asked her what she was going to do. She said that she thought it over, and even though this new offer sounded great, she indicated that she was going to turn down the interview. She said that she had committed to her original offer months ago and was not going to back out of it two weeks before she was supposed to start. AJ thought she needed to be true to her word and not let the original company down at the last minute.
To me, AJ was living up to one of the unwritten rules of business and the workplace: Honor your commitments and treat your employer how you expect to be treated. As a father, I was glad she made the decision she did, but it did not necessarily make me proud because I felt that she was merely doing what was expected. However, as I talked to a number of her peers and even some older folks, I learned that many of them would have jumped to the new offer. I find it very concerning that unwritten rules of commitment and respect are also on the decline.
Whether it is in baseball or business, unwritten rules play an important role in demonstrating respect for those you encounter. Unfortunately, it seems like adherence to these rules is on the decline, making us all the worse for it. Whether it is a bat flip or reneging on a commitment, neither is a very good sign for the future.