Poor dating etiquette has somehow leaked all over the workplace. Most adults could probably share a horror story in which they were ghosted—carrying on in a blissful early phase of a blossoming relationship only to discover the other person had mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again. No warning. No explanation. No closure.
Beyond the social implications, ghosting simply refers to the act of “going dark” or cutting off all communication without any justification or notice. A concept that theoretically seems wildly inappropriate for the workplace yet is taking on a life of its own between employees and employers.
Where is this happening—and why is this happening? And perhaps more importantly, what is within our control to change or correct as we continue to adjust to new normals in order to promote open and transparent lines of communication within an organization?
Various reports have indicated that ghosting trends—both on behalf of the employer and the jobseeker or employee—have drastically increased since the pandemic, with upwards of 76 percent of employers claiming they’ve been ghosted within the last twelve months and 77 percent of job seekers having experienced ghosting by a future employer since March 2020.
The job pursuit has presented countless instances of ghosting, dating back to a time when such a term had yet to be coined in this way. Traditionally, the employer was far more likely to ghost than the workforce, as the party that possesses the power in this dynamic sits in a position to suddenly drop communications during the recruitment process. While the trend began to shift ever-so-slightly prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to mass resignations and career pivots, an abundant job market presented the opportunity for job seekers to begin mimicking this behavior.
There’s truly no excuse for faulty or disruptive communication from an employer throughout the application and interview processes. Platforms such as LinkedIn and Indeed have made it essentially effortless for a job seeker to toss their name in for consideration, planting enormous applicant pools in the lap of the employer. And as they conduct their initial outreach to begin narrowing the list, it seems they lose incentive, motivation and time to circle back with anyone who doesn’t make the cut.
Is this just a necessary evil? It’s possible, as it’s the reality for so many. But in a world where one’s network and relationships drive opportunity as well as reputation, the lack of professionalism and humanity is inexcusable. It’s just bad practice.
That said, the lack of consideration and respect so many employees have experienced is coming back to haunt employers in full force. Job seekers who suddenly find it difficult to get a response or update on where they stand leads to a negative perception—and suddenly the job seekers and employees find a new sense of power.
When applicants find themselves with multiple hooks in the water, the dynamic of each interaction with a future employer carries significantly more weight. Attitudes are shifting—employees are more selective when presented with a choice, and thus demanding more from their employers, including respect.
Many individuals have already sacrificed the almighty dollar for other contingencies, but a sense of empowerment and genuine respect are topping the list in recent years. And as a result, employees have positioned themselves to be a little more brazen and unapologetic in practicing their own version of ghosting in the midst of a gluttonous job market that’s pulling them in various directions.
As reports of employee ghosting are on the rise, it’s clear this trend is not exclusive to those in the job hunt or application process. Throughout the pandemic, there has been a consistent increase in employees ghosting their employers by not showing up to work and seeing if anyone notices, ultimately leading to the introduction of another buzzword: quiet quitting. The transition into a virtual world changed traditional methods of presence and accountability, and truthfully, organizations are bloated with such deep rosters that it took quite some time before anyone noticed a colleague’s absence.
In some instances, employees were capitalizing on the sudden transition into remote work by working two full-time jobs at the same time in an effort to double their income. And in many cases, they would gradually ghost one organization and lean into their preferred of the two roles. Without substantial time to figure out how to effectively manage remotely, employees quickly identified a few avenues that allowed them to step into a new opportunistic—and often questionable—mentality.
How do we begin to correct the system? Regardless of which party is responsible for ghosting, a great deal of responsibility falls on the employer.
When it comes to recruitment and hiring, employers must remain nimble and organized throughout the process, cautious not to get carried away or overly boastful about how many applicants raise their hand. Establish a clear and consistent chain of communication, and make the effort to follow up on a timely basis, for better or for worse, while the conversation is fresh and as the gavel falls.
When it comes to company oversight, be intentional with hiring efforts, and even if it means challenging decisions for the business, there may be strategic and effective downsizing potential. Experts suggest that most organizations could stand to lose upwards of 40 percent of their staff. So much of this comes backs to etiquette, culture and professionalism. What from within your value system are you preaching and practicing? The pandemic has shone a bright light on company culture and employees are like a moth to the flame. Offering your employees respect and transparent communication fosters loyalty and a strong work ethic—and the more productivity and engagement you can cultivate, the better your chances of achieving long-term loyalty and employee retention.