We live in a time where communicating with others is as easy as pressing a button or swiping a finger. The digital world allows us to stay plugged in 24/7 with just about anyone … anywhere. In our personal and professional lives, the presence of social media and cell phones means you can easily track down a friend, a date, a family member or colleague within seconds. Yet, despite all this interconnectedness, we are suddenly experiencing the phenomenon of being “ghosted.”
In previous blogs I have compared workplace troubles with the issues we may face in our romantic lives (e.g., Career Matchmaking, abandoning our careers to relocate). In this article, I’ll address a new phenomenon that started in the personal realm but has now crossed over into the professional realm – Ghosting.
So, what does ‘being ghosted’ or having someone ghost you look like … or rather feel like?
Being Stood Up
Perhaps when you think of someone being stood up you imagine a person anxiously sitting in a restaurant alone while eyeing the door, then their watch, then the door again. That’s what being stood up looked like back in the day. I’m sure it’s similar today with exception of the cell phone being glued to the stood-up person’s hand, eyes transfixed, waiting for a replied text that never comes.
Now how does this translate in the workplace? According to many of my associates, the same thing can happen to a hiring manager or business owner as they sit in their office waiting for the interviewee to show up … but who never does. They email, call and even text this person in the hopes they are just running late or perhaps they got the time of interview mixed up, yet there is still no response. Sometimes the interviewee has already met with them but somehow decides not to show up for the actual job interview – or if they attended the interview, they may agree to take the job but never show up for work.
The Rude Breakup
Ghosting doesn’t always occur with a new and unknown love interest or a talented job candidate, sometimes it can happen after months or years of an established relationship. This is when ghosting becomes personal regardless of whether it happens to a romantic partner, friend, co-worker, or employer. Regardless of the context, the effects of being ghosted are still as shocking and potentially damaging. I have heard from employers that this “ghosting” often seems to happen after there has been a long weekend, vacation, or holiday break. Unexpectedly, a few employees just don’t come back, not even to collect their personal items left on their cubicle desk. They don’t reply to emails or calls. Others have described an employee getting up to grab a coffee at a café and poof they don’t return. This kind of action cannot even remotely be described as an offensive break up or disrespectful quitting because even those imply there were some words exchanged between two people. In these cases, ghosting is more appropriate.
Readers of this blog know that I have written about toxic workplaces in the past. For instance, I’ve done a two-part series on ‘Corporate Psychopaths’ who act like wolves in the workplace. I’ve written about workplace bullying, sexual harassment, and even female bullies (the Queen Bee Syndrome). Even if rarely discussed openly in most workplaces, many workplaces are unpleasant … so it’s no wonder some people ghost. They probably look at it as a clean getaway. Some victims of bad office behaviour don’t care about burning bridges, they’d prefer to burn down those bridges and never look back (or be followed …).
There may, however, be another explanation. Despite years of minimal growth in incomes, academic inflation, and downsizing due to automation, outsourcing, and globalization, for some roles, there aren’t enough employees to fill the vacancies. This labour shortage puts more power into the hands of employees. When employees know they’ve got better options, especially if they’ve been treated poorly, it makes sense that we’d see ghosting.
Watch this website or your social media feed for part two of this blog where I’ll discuss the professional and organizational consequences of ghosting.
Have you ever wished you could get inside the head of a hiring manager? You can. Dr. Helen Ofosu is a Career Coach/Counsellor with a difference. She has worked for organizations to create hiring and screening tools. She’s created countless pre-screening tests, interviews, simulations, and role plays for organizations of all kinds.
Dr. Helen’s training in Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology means she is a genuine expert in evaluating work-related behaviours. She uses those skills to help hiring managers tell the difference between people who say the right things during interviews and people who actually deliver on the job. In other words, Dr. Helen understands first-hand how job candidates are assessed.
More than career coaching, it’s career psychology®.
I/O Advisory Services – Building Resilient Careers and Organizations TM.
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