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The Ethics of ‘Ghosting’  

“If there’s something weird and it don’t look good, who you gonna call…?”

Ghosting on the internet occurs when someone with whom you have established a relationship disappears from contact without any explanation at all. Perhaps it’s someone you just met on social media, communicated with several times, and then, suddenly, all contact is gone. You might ask: Why did it happen? What did I do to deserve it? Is this person really so inconsiderate that a brief explanation is too much to ask? Finally, you’d probably come around and ask why you got involved with such a creep in the first place and realize it’s a good think to have been ghosted by this person because sooner or later he/she would so something that upsets you even more.

In today’s dating culture being ghosted is a phenomenon that approximately 50 percent of men and women have experienced—and an almost equal number have done the ghosting. Research from the online dating site Plenty of Fish found that of 800 millennial daters between the ages of 18-33, almost 80% of singles have been ghosted. Many of those ghosted have likely done it to someone else. Despite ghosting's commonality, the emotional effects can be devastating, and particularly damaging to those who already have fragile self-esteem. It can be psychologically devastating especially if this wasn’t the first time. Don't+take+it+personally

There are a variety of violations of ethical behavior when someone ghosts another. The first is The Golden Rule. Just imagine what might go through the mind of the person doing the ghosting if they ask themselves how they would feel if the shoe was on the other foot.

Another issue is ghosting breeds distrust. Moreover, it is an irresponsible behavior that occurs in part because when we communicate through a screen, we can say whatever we want, or completely ignore the other party, without having to personally explain one’s actions.

Daters claim they ghost someone to avoid hurting their feelings, but ghosting is just a selfish way of avoiding a difficult conversation. Saying you want to avoid hurting another person’s feelings is simply a rationalization for an unethical action.

'Ghosting' a potential employer is an acceptable practice, according to a survey from Clutch.  More than 40% of job seekers say it's reasonable to ghost companies during the interview process, abruptly cutting off communication when they decide not to pursue a job. A strong economy means candidates have more jobs to choose from. As a result, companies must work harder to win talent.

Workplace ghosting occurs because job seekers accept another job (30%) or decide a position is not a match (19%). Job seekers also ghost in response to being ghosted: Nearly one-quarter (23%) say they ghost when a company stops communicating with them. Overall, more than half of job seekers (55%) say they abandon 1-5 job applications during the job search.

Applicants rank ghosting more favorably when they initiate it, compared to when companies ghost them. More than one-third of job seekers (35%) say it's very unreasonable for a company to ghost an applicant. Only 21% believe it's very unreasonable for an applicant to ghost a company.

Ghosting during the interview process is a violation of virtually all ethical values. Ethical values in the workplace include: honesty, trustworthiness, responsibility, integrity, kindness and empathy. I can’t imagine why an employer would hire someone who did the ghosting and I can’t imagine why a prospective candidate would want to work for a company doing the ghosting. In both cases the act is a disrespectful one and raises doubts about diligence and reliability in the workplace.

When I think about ghosting from an ethical perspective, I am reminded of the expression that ethics is about what we do when no one is watching.

So, in the words of the Ghostbusters song “If there’s something weird and it don’t look good, who you gonna call…?” How about your partner so that you can break things off the right way!

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on September 4, 2018. Visit Dr. Mintz’s website and sign up for his Newsletter.