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Job Ghosting: A Scary New Trend For Employers

Maybe you’ve had an experience like this:

You make plans with someone to meet up for coffee. You have set the time and place in advance and you spoke with the other person and they confirmed the meeting. So you show up to the coffeehouse and wait, but they don’t seem to be coming.

So you send a text. No response. They are really late now, so you call them. Nothing. You wait maybe 30 or 40 minutes, enjoy your latte, and try calling one more time. Still, you are not able to reach them.

Now imagine that you are not this person’s friend, but their boss. And imagine that the coffeehouse is not a coffeehouse, but it is the workplace. And this other person? You never hear from them again.

You have just been ghosted my friend…

Ghosting is Gaining in Popularity

We used to call this kind of thing a “no call, no show” and this term technically still applies, but the problem is that there are more and more employees (or I guess ex-employees, right?) taking this kind of behavior to the next level by continuing the disappearing act for good.

The Seattle Times reports that many analysts are blaming the job market, citing that there have been more job openings than job seekers for the past 8 months. In fact, some staffing companies are reporting increases in ghosting by up to 20%.

The Root Cause of Ghosting

There are many theories out there, but the most common include some appeal to the odiousness of Millennials. The common courtesy of communicating that you are quitting is typically filed as another entry on a growing list of things that Millennial are reputed to have killed.

The truth is probably something more like a cocktail of cultural conditions and the simple fact that things just tend to change over time. I have another blog dedicated to these forces that you can check out here. Ghosting is just a logical extension of these factors and is symptomatic of a much deeper issue.

We May Have Brought Ghosting On Ourselves

We have trained the younger generation to avoid what’s uncomfortable and ghosting is a prime example of this kind of avoidance. Having the “I’m quitting” conversation is tough. I’ve written about this before, but the truth is that if we want to reverse the trend of ghosting, we are going to have to put a lot of hard work into rehabilitating the way we communicate.

This doesn’t mean that we should abandon the conveniences and advancements afforded us through technology, but rather we should be relishing the chance to increase the number of meaningful messages that we can read and deliver.

The best way to start is to “lead by example” and ensure that we are concise and candid in our communication and hold our teams accountable to do the same.

The Future of Workplace Communication

One thing is painfully clear: leaders must improve at holding up their end of the “conversational” bargain. After ghosting made its official debut in the most recent issue of the Fed’s Beige Book, many Millennials are speaking out about their satisfaction that employers are having to take a dose of their own medicine.

One tweet on the subject reads:

...'ghosting' is when a prospective employer has you submit a resume and cover letter, then fill out an online application with all the same details, answer a quiz, do a phone interview, a 1-hour in-person, a 4-hour second interview... then you never hear from them again”

-Mike Toole

This post received thousands of positive responses and many, many stories from Millennials who have experienced these phenomena.

It may not be a popular answer, but if we as leaders and bosses expect that our employees and applicants communicate with us, we need to be committed to initiating interactions. For additional resources, I recommend checking out Kim Scott’s book, Radical Candor.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with employees ghosting on their jobs. Let me know what you think in the comments section.

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