There’s plenty of outrage this weekend after the communication choices of NBA player DeAndre Jordan, who backed out of a verbal agreement to sign a contract with the Dallas Mavericks and re-signed instead with the Los Angeles Clippers. The controversy centers somewhat around Jordan’s decision to “change his mind” but, more recently, mostly around the fact that he didn’t tell the Mavericks’ celebrity owner Mark Cuban personally about his decision.
Jordan took to Twitter to offer his apology, rather than calling Cuban or otherwise contacting him directly. The jilted Cuban then went online to publicly say that he doesn’t accept the apology. Jordan is taking most of the heat publicly and, on the surface, the criticism makes sense. Etiquette and integrity standards dictate that Jordan should have let Cuban know one-to-one that he was backing out on his verbal agreement. But, reality proves that we are all part of a culture of DeAndre Jordans.
It’s easy to place the blame on the Millenial generation and social media, but the avoidance of difficult conversations is ingrained in our culture of business and personal relationships. Long before the advent of the Internet, we would send a letter rather than deal with an issue face-to-face. If you’re of a certain age, you’re kidding yourself if you won’t admit to calling someone before or after hours to leave an answering machine or voice mail message, rather than having to get them on the phone for two-way dialogue. Email has now been around about 20 years and has been used throughout to avoid tough talk to deliver one-way messages like “we decided to go in another direction.”
The phenomenon of “ghosting” has been written about in media in recent weeks, which is a step beyond breaking up via text or social media – an avoidance of a breakup at all. But, in business, that’s nothing new. We have all had prospects who just decide not to return calls or answer emails rather than say “We decided not to hire you because…” For many years, we have heard about job candidates who literally never hear back from a prospective employer, left to presume that someone else got the job.
There is no defending DeAndre Jordan’s behavior. He absolutely should have handled it differently, under the category of “the right thing to do.” But before you criticize him, take a look in the mirror. You too, like all of us, one one time or another, in your professional or personal life, have been guilty of the same charge.