Ghosting at work – Who’s to blame?

As reported on LinkedIn recently, there is a small but growing bad habit happening in the world of work – ghosting. The term ‘ghosting’ was first introduced by millennials to mean dumping a date or romantic partner without saying anything, then just disappearing without answering texts, calls, or emails. It’s now spread to ghosting at work, and people are simply stopping coming to work when they get a better offer – or for any other reason. This is most often happening at the beginning of a term of employment, when the candidate simply gets a better offer or changes their mind and walks.

The interesting question here, is why is ghosting at work happening?

It’s very easy to say it’s a bad practice by the employee – it is, of course. Most people understand that it’s rude to ghost – and that not to inform people that you’re leaving means leaving them in the lurch. And ghosting has a bad effect on everyone involved. Far from sparing the awkward leaving conversation, it breeds contempt, anger and resentment. As with all relationships – business or personal, it’s communication that is key.

Ducking the responsibility of leaving a job in a mature and sensible way doesn’t make anyone feel good. And if you’re the employee it leaves a bad mark on your record. The world of work is often smaller than you think, and if a boss is talking about you as a bad prospect, you have no control over who may hear that – what if they put it out on social media and your new employer sees it? It could be them doing the dumping next.

Do employers have a part to play in ghosting at work?

However, recruitment consultants and employers must also take a look at themselves in terms of ghosting at work. How many times do applicants complain if they put in a lot of hard work into a job application, only to get ghosted themselves when they’re not successful in getting the job. As an experienced recruiter I know this isn’t the way to garner trust in good applicants.

Many employers will say it’s too time consuming to write to everyone to say, ‘Sorry, you weren’t successful this time.’ But maybe they should reconsider. And people who have reached an interview stage should always get a call explaining why they weren’t hired.

Our job as recruiters is to nurture both candidates and employers. We aim to create meaningful relationships with people to make sure we place them in the right position for them, and in terms of employers that we find them the best people. We’re not going to gain respect by treating the process like a sausage factory – churning out jobs and candidates.

Can onboarding prevent ghosting on employers?

We also need to encourage and support onboarding among our clients. The practice of getting a new employee involved before they officially start is one I highly recommend. So, between signing contracts and the start date they can meet the team, attend events, be introduced to a buddy, get sent interesting bits of info including what’s happening in the day to day of office life. Each company may do onboarding in their own way, depending on the culture of the office, but the basics are that it helps the new person feel part of the team, and they are a lot less likely to ghost.

LinkedIn reports that a whopping 48% of 600 polled by LinkedIn have seen an increase in ghosting since the beginning of 2018. It’s happening in the US, too. A LinkedIn investigation in June last year cited labour shortage and a tight job market as causes of the rise.

I think we should approach the problem with a two-fold solution.

First, yes, educate at school and college that ghosting at work – and in relationships – is unacceptable, but make sure that message gets through to employers and employees. If we all start to treat each other with the respect we feel we deserve, then hopefully that attitude will spread.

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