Ghosting, a Gen Z phenomenon, is most typically associated with dating, but this rude behavior is no longer limited to relationships. It has extended to the workplace and to higher education admissions as well.
The Urban Dictionary defines ghosting as “when a person cuts off all communication with their friends or the person they’re dating, with zero warning or notice beforehand.” It is the ultimate act of radio silence.
According to the Washington Post, “Ghosting is normal now. That’s completely bonkers.” Employees no-show on interviews or the first day of the job, or just stop coming to work without notice and employers are unable to reach them. Candidates are made offers of admission with an expressed response deadline and admissions personnel never hear back. It’s as if they have dropped off the face of the earth.
Mark Bowden of Business Insider notes that “If this truly is a situation where you’re being ghosted, you can exercise power by requesting that the ‘ghoster’ reply within a time restriction you set, or by choosing to define the context of their ghosting by saying to them, ‘I take it you are very busy today.’” While this advice may seem sound, it still fails to do the trick.
At Touro College of Pharmacy, where I serve as assistant dean for admissions and enrollment management, I have seen a significant uptick in a lack of response to offers of admission. As we continue to reach out to candidates via their most comfortable method of communication, texting, we still experience ghosting on a regular basis. A simple reply Y or N is just too much emotional effort. We address this issue directly with candidates during the interview, send a decision deadline reminder email, call and then text, yet still—poof—they disappear into thin air.
What do we attribute this to? Ghosting in essence is a particularly hurtful form of rejection because it does not provide the “ghosted” with closure of any sort. It is a selfish behavior that in some instances can cause significant emotional pain, more than the temporary discomfort of having a direct and uncomfortable conversation.
In the world of texting, young adults are simply avoiding these conversations or decisions by just ignoring them. If I ignore you long enough, maybe you will just get the hint. Interestingly, while ghosting is now seemingly an acceptable behavior, being ghosted by a prospective employer or admissions department is not acceptable to these young adults.
Acceptance and Expectation
Sadly, we need to expect that this behavior is here to stay. We need to accept that a percentage of people we interact with personally or professionally will disappear and not take it to heart. Lowering our expectations will certainly lower our frustration. But, if we just keep lowering the bar, too soon it will be buried underground. Noteworthy is this new-age behavior has recently entered the job market and professional schools. They are the next generation of educators, lawyers, physicians and bankers.
Which Generation Are You?
Gen Zers were raised by Gen Xers rather than Baby Boomers. Boomers have always been committed to creating a more ethical and socially conscious society that genuinely cares about higher morals, while Gen Xers believe they live in an individualistic society where people do best by looking out for number one. ‘Ghosters’ are the product of this generation.
While I acknowledge that ghosting is here to say, at least for the meantime, and I have come to expect and accept it, I remain a proud member of the Baby Boomer generation. I was raised, and try to live by, the Golden Rule—treat others how you would want to be treated.
Heidi Fuchs is assistant dean for admissions at Touro College of Pharmacy in New York and has been in higher education for over a decade. Prior to that she had over 25 years of experience in HR on Wall Street.