Workplace Ghosting: Understanding the Phenomenon, its Growth, and Solutions
Workplace ghosting is a growing issue in today’s work environment. I see it in all types of businesses, from small businesses to corporate giants. The term “ghosting” originated from the world of online dating, where it refers to the act of abruptly cutting off communication with someone without any explanation.
In the workplace, ghosting can involve various behaviors, such as not showing up for interviews, leaving a job without notice, or not responding to communication attempts from colleagues or supervisors.
I truly believe Workplace Ghosting is a Choice, not an accident, regardless of who is ghosting.
This article aims to explain workplace ghosting, explore the reasons behind its growth, and propose potential solutions to mitigate its impact.
1. What is workplace ghosting?
Workplace ghosting is intentionally avoiding communication or disappearing without explanation in any work or professional setting. It can look innocent enough because a leader or employee will claim they don’t have time to respond to every inquiry, or the person being communicated to believes they don’t need to respond to a particular person.
Today’s work environment has become so bogged down in busy work and trivial communications that the big picture, fun work, is drowned out in the drone of the chatter. Just because everyone seems to think ghosting is all right, I believe there is a better way.
Some common examples of workplace ghosting include:
- Job candidates are not showing up for interviews or not responding to job offers.
- Employees quit their jobs without giving any notice or explanation.
- Managers make assignment changes without discussing them with the affected employees.
- Stakeholders in various departments intentionally build walls (silos) between themselves and other departments to protect their turf.
- Leaders or managers will only talk with stakeholders when they want something done or to point out a failure, then become invisible when the stakeholders want to discuss something.
- Colleagues or supervisors ignore emails, phone calls, or other forms of communication.
2. Why has workplace ghosting grown?
Several factors have contributed to the rise of workplace ghosting:
- The digital age: The widespread use of technology, particularly social media, email, and messaging apps, has made it easier for individuals to ignore or avoid communication attempts. At the same time, it has expanded the number of frivolous and unwarranted communications initiated by individuals just to get noticed.
- The gig economy: With an increasing number of freelance, contract, and remote work opportunities, employees may feel less commitment to a particular employer or role, making it easier to ghost. This disconnect is not only on the employee side but also on the employer side. Loyalty is a two-way street.
- A competitive job market: In some industries, job seekers may have multiple offers or opportunities, making it easier to abandon one without explaining. While true, it does not justify the lack of shared respect and decency when communicating between prospective employees and employers. Many are talking about empathy in the workplace; however, this makes it less visible. There are often unreasonable expectations on both sides.
3. How do we fix workplace ghosting?
Addressing workplace ghosting requires a multi-faceted approach, including the following:
a. Communication and transparency: Encourage open communication and maintain transparent hiring and onboarding processes. Provide clear expectations for candidates and employees, and establish channels for feedback and concerns. Ensure there is a significant opportunity to bring integrity and honesty to the forefront of the conversation.
b. Company culture: Cultivate a supportive and inclusive work environment. Employees who feel valued and connected to their workplace are less likely to engage in ghosting behaviors. Too many organizations give culture lip service rather than making it part of the DNA of the stakeholders. This ignorance leaves many companies and stakeholders wondering why they are even there. Culture must be intentional and lived, not some brass plaque on the wall.
c. Flexibility: Offering flexible opportunities, such as flexible hours, to accommodate employees’ personal and professional needs or mutually beneficial remote roles that allow them to work from home.
d. Screening and selection: Carefully evaluate candidates for their communication skills and commitment to the role during the hiring process. Ask questions highlighting leadership’s concerns with the individual stakeholders’ growth and well-being and how the candidate can contribute. Encourage the candidate to ask questions about the culture and role before any commitments are made.
e. Provide closure: When a leader, employee, or candidate ghosts, it is essential to acknowledge the situation and provide closure for the remaining team members. If stakeholders ask a complex question, ignoring them will only lead to further breakdown of communications. This can help to maintain morale and avoid potential resentment.
Workplace ghosting is a growing concern; understanding its causes is the first step toward addressing it. By fostering open communication, building a positive company culture, and implementing strategic hiring practices, employers can mitigate the impact of ghosting and create a more stable, supportive work environment for all employees.
Takeaway: Workplace ghosting is a CHOICE, not an accident or imperative dictate from someone in charge.