Who among us hasn’t experienced “ghosting”; an abrupt halt in communications with people with whom we share a business relationship built around agreed upon outcomes?  Recently, I executed and delivered my end of a transaction, and the other party disappeared. Gone. 
The most maddening part is that I had made a financial deposit to initiate the transaction and a legal obligation was incurred--and ignored. Like many people, I first wonder if the person accidentally missed the deadline or did not see my message. Then, I worry something has happened to them. Were they in a car accident? Did a family member die? 
And finally, I move on.
No matter the cause of this worrisome social trend, choosing not to respond is never okay. Nonresponse creates a fissure in society’s very foundation, our social contract, a concept of moral behavior on which we have relied since Socrates. When ghosting becomes normalized, it is no surprise that people are uncertain, anxious, and angry.
In a professional environment, the behavior demonstrates the most basic lack of ethics and a disrespect of personal relationships. We have morphed from core American principles like “my word is my bond [of honor]” to accepting little to no personal responsibility. When implied or explicit obligations are ignored in the workplace, you need a turnaround and fast.
Perhaps stressors of the pandemic diminished professionalism over the last five years, but that is no excuse today. Online discourse and policy debates have grown dismissive and brutal. Conversations focus on the negatives instead of the positives. Non-response is normalized when people do not know how to respond, so they choose not to. As societal norms devolve and disruption continues, self-preservation overtakes professional ethics. That is not good for any of us.
Working together we can change course, but we have a short window to fix this bad habit before it becomes even more acceptable and with no accountability. A starting point is coaching others in how to respond in a business environment so that they understand professional communication is an important factor in their success. These small steps can be effective. 
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If actions don’t result in a successful resolution, have a conversation but end your professional relationship in writing. Keep your note brief and diplomatic. Indicate why you valued the relationship. Highlight positive work done but note that you need to make a change to achieve your business objectives.
No one likes to be mistreated. Responsiveness and respect are critical foundations for society and business. Proactive discussion or even over-communication creates trust and a higher level of performance as everyone engaged in the activity can anticipate an issue and adapt before it becomes problematic.  
Throughout the pandemic, memes read: “We are in this together.” Let’s show that we are by doing everything you said you would do or communicating when you can’t—even when it’s hard. 
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” James Humes

WRITTEN BY

Lisa Gable