When Magic Johnson abruptly quit the Los Angeles Lakers president role in early April, it soon surfaced that he had good reason to do so. He was accidentally cc:’d on a vicious email exchange about him, a telltale sign of what a toxic environment he worked in.
So, no one could really blame him for his abrupt departure. Johnson announced it 90 minutes before the last game of the season without even telling his boss in advance, owner Jeanie Buss, effectively doing what’s known as ghosting.
Ghosting is a silent exit, without warning. The employee just up and quits, and is often difficult to track down after that. While Magic did announce his departure, he told the press, not his employer. And while he didn’t exactly go into hiding after he quit, he steered clear of the Lakers organization (only recently meeting and reconciling with owner Buss).
Johnson also abruptly abandoned one key employee. LeBron James.
It surprised me when James revealed this recently on his HBO show The Shop. Said James (edited for brevity):
“My right hand man comes to me and says ‘Magic just stepped down’. I’m like, you mean from out of his car? Get the (expletive) out of my face. He’s like, ‘Go check your phone.’ Personally for me, I came here to be a part of the Lakers organization, having a conversation with Magic last summer — we were going to make this ‘Showtime’ again, and I wanted to be part of that process. So it was just weird for him to just be like, ‘I’m out of here’ and not even have no like, ‘Hey Bron, kiss my (expletive). I’m out of here.’ I would’ve been OK with that. ‘Hey Bron, it’s Magic. Kiss my (expletive), I’m gone.’ Not even that.”
King James isn’t the only one in the workplace experiencing a co-worker bolting without warning. Recruiters at global staffing firm Robert Half told the Washington Post that they’ve seen an astonishing 10 to 20 percent increase in ghosting over the past year.
Specifically, ghosting takes the form of employees suddenly leaving one day never to return (like Magic did), applicants blowing off interviews, and new hires never showing up for the job on day one. In fact, Rebecca Henderson, CEO of talent acquisition firm Randstad Sourceright, said, “We generally make two offers for every job because somebody doesn’t show up.”
Experts blame a tight labor market with job applicants having many options, and far too many options turning out to be pretty crappy in reality. In those cases, the disengaged employee figures they don’t owe the employer anything. So see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya.
Maybe I’m old school, but ghosting is weak.
I get the need to leave a bad job or even worse boss, pronto. But the problem I have with ghosting, despite its surface sexiness, besides the exhilarating daydreams it conjures up, is that it’s disrespectful at the core.
And that’s for the scenario when you’re already an employee and you just leave. In the case where you blow off an interview or never show up day one after getting hired, it’s incredibly rude and just plain bad karma.
If you’re going to leave a job you’re in, it seems like common courtesy to me to have the courage to face your boss and tell them why you’re leaving. I don’t agree with the old adage of two-weeks notice, but I think a week’s notice seems fair.
Whenever you have that “I’m outta here” discussion, maybe it will serve as a wake-up call and help prevent future you’s from going through what you did. Maybe it will lead to a surprising counter-offer or a rapid make-amends in your work conditions. Or maybe it will just fall on deaf ears. In any case, take the higher ground and give the company and the people that thought enough to hire you the basic decency of a heads-up. Magic Johnson should have at least told LeBron what was up, given the partnership/shared vision they created. Period.
For those that would skip an interview or never show up for the first day, you’re blocking someone else from that opportunity — perhaps someone who needed that job much more than you obviously do.
Call it ghosting, or spiriting, whatever. It’s carried out in the wrong spirit.