Office Politics: How to Play the Game – Ethically
Why Do Businesses Continue to Ignore Their Role as a Moral Agent?

Ghosting in the Workplace

Dealing with Rejection

Ghosting in the workplace is when a candidate abruptly disengages from the interview process without explanation. Ghosting occurs in different ways including not keeping employers informed of a decision, not showing up for the first day of work, and ghosting after accepting a job. Employers also engage in ghosting when they cease to follow up with candidates or schedule the next steps.

A survey of job seekers by Clutch indicates that 41 percent believe it’s reasonable to ghost a company and 32 percent believe it’s reasonable for companies to ghost.

Here are the reasons why respondents said they ghosted.

  • Accepted another offer (30%);
  • Never heard back from the company (23%);
  • Decided the position was not a match (19%).

Of those rejected by employers in their last job search, only 21 percent were rejected over the phone, 13 percent received an email; and 36 percent did not contact them at all. Clutch said that employers that don't communicate with job seekers send a message that they approve of ghosting.

Here’s a situation I was a part of. Megan had been interviewing for her first job as a graduating senior. She went through five interviews and was anxiously awaiting the responses. She received  her first offer and verbally committed to taking the job. No other offers or rejections came for two weeks after which she got an offer that was too good to refuse. It was the better of the two offers and from her preferred employer. Megan decided to accept that offer. She asked for advice what should she do next? Ghosting

I told her to inform the first employer that she accepted another offer. Ignoring the first employer and not communicating her decision or not showing up on the first day would be a selfish act. Some people do it because they feel it’s emotionally easier because they don’t want to explain themselves. The reason it’s difficult to have that conversation is the person isn’t proud of what they did – accepting a second job offer after agreeing to the first.

Another reason to contact the first employer is the firm may have declined to make other offers once she had accepted the position. It’s not fair to those who got rejected to back out late in the game. I told her to think about: How would she feel if she was a candidate for a position and didn’t get an offer because someone who had already filled that position backed out at the last minute?

Ghosting is an example of a situation where nothing illegal has occurred (unless Megan signed a contract) but the action was unethical. In other words, just because something is legal that doesn’t mean it’s ethical.

I’m always taken aback when a student tells me about a ghosting incident. I ask the simple question: Why didn’t you just send an email saying something like: “I regret to inform you that I’ve accepted another job offer.” You can even go further: “I regret to inform you that I’ve accepted another job. Thanks for the opportunity to interview with your firm.” Yes, this may be uncomfortable and it’s possible the first employer contacts you for an explanation. But, handling that matter in the right way is what life is all about – your growth and development as an ethical person. It’s all about caring about others; empathy for their situation; truth and personal responsibility.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on February 28, 2019. Visit Steve’s website and sign up for his newsletter. Follow him on Facebook and “Like” his page.