Last week I discussed the haunting act of professional ghosting. I defined it and proposed some explanations for why it’s happening to more and more employers and interviewers. It started as a term popular among online and offline daters, but it has now seeped into the places where we work.
Now, in part two, I’m exploring the issue from the perspective of the employee who suddenly ‘poofs’ from their cubicle never to be seen again. Not all employees or job candidates who ghost do so arbitrarily even though it may seem random to onlookers. Sometimes, the one who vanishes from their desk or skips their second job interview has legitimate reasons for ghosting rather than saying “I quit” or “I don’t think this job is for me.” Some ‘workplace ghosts’ choose to ghost because of a fear of confrontation. Their supervisor may be a bully or perhaps they feel left out or alienated within a work team, and therefore, feel little obligation to have a real farewell sit down.
Is ghosting a soulless act?
Whether in a personal or professional relationship, ghosting someone can be extremely hurtful, perplexing and also leave a person in a real predicament. Does someone who decides to ghost ever think about the ramifications that their ghosting has on the people they leave in the lurch? For example, despite any valid motivations that cause someone to take an ‘eternal’ lunch break and never return to their boss, other people will be directly or indirectly affected by the impromptu loss of a co-worker. It may take time for people to give up on waiting for their colleague to return. Then, it will take more time to find keys to offices, filing cabinets, passwords to access electronic documents, contact any clients or other stakeholders who are associated with the ‘ghost employees’ work.
The ghost may shrug off the guilt of leaving co-workers behind by thinking, “my colleagues can manage without me.” Or “so what if they have to put in a little overtime before I get replaced.” To make their act of ghosting seem justifiable, many who cut off all communication with their former workplace will play the role of the victim – “they didn’t notice me when I was around, why should they care now that I’m gone?” All these rationalizations may actually ring true, but it doesn’t change the fact that people will be adversely affected by someone leaving their professional responsibilities without warning … or planning. This professional incivility and disrespect can make someone who ghosts have more enemies than mourners once they resurrect themselves in the workforce. This is especially true if one remains within the same professional area.
You may be able to ghost from a person … but can you hide from the internet?
Another way ghosting may haunt the one who vanishes is the tangled web of the Internet. Yes, it’s easy to swipe left to reject someone in virtual time. Impersonal digital communication allows us to effortlessly disconnect from the world and all its demands in a matter of seconds. But what happens when you decide to plug back in? The Internet doesn’t forget. Your past actions (such as ghosting three separate jobs in the last year) are still out there. Employers use the internet every day to find out about potential job candidates, and often, advanced algorithms and AI match data, reject resumes, sort profiles and academic credentials without ever meeting a candidate for an interview. This may come back to haunt a workplace ghost who has decided to evaporate from an office or not attend a scheduled interview one time too many. Try explaining to an algorithm that your spontaneous ghosting act during a crucial work deadline was warranted because the job wasn’t fulfilling, you didn’t like the work hours, or you were sick of the ongoing side-eye from Becky … or Chad.
Ghosting an employer … is it career suicide?
Again, even if an employee has valid reasons to hastily leave a job via ghosting, the sudden disappearing act is risky because, in essence, you have ‘killed yourself off’ professionally. We all need to figure out which bridges to cross and which ones to burn down (I prefer not to burn bridges …). Reputation and references are what resurrects a person’s career after leaving a job, but if you ghost you may have nailed your career inside the proverbial coffin. The haunting effects of someone deciding to fade away from all communication and contacts from their place of work may inevitably turn the ghoster into just a … ghost, which no business or employer will be able to see.
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.
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