Halloween may be over, but there are still ghosts lurking about (cue creepy music). Unfortunately, the Ghost Busters aren’t going to be able to confront these ghosts- it’s all on us.
Ghosting, a term once reserved for the world of dating, has made its way into the professional world. According to Merriam-Webster (wait, let’s pause here – that’s how prevalent this is- it’s made the dictionary), ghosting is “the act or practice of abruptly cutting off all contact with someone (such as a former romantic partner) by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages, etc.” By that definition alone, you can see how this phantom phenomenon can easily translate into the workplace.
If you’ve been ghosted before, whether personally or professionally, you understand the feeling. It leaves you wondering, annoyed, and even hurt. As an introvert, I put a lot of weight into my interactions with others, so when steady communication is suddenly and inexplicably ended, it hits particularly hard. Further, as a communications professional, you can understand how a broken chain of communication can both baffle and frustrate me.
Let me be clear here, I’m not talking about one email that may have gone unanswered. That happens. We all have inboxes that could make us blush if others saw them. What I mean are situations that entailed weeks of constant communication and proposals. The situations where you feel the other party supported your new idea, or perhaps you as a candidate, and was ready to take it to the next level (see- more dating correlations).
You may have already planned your future moves -just like the days of writing your middle school boyfriend’s name all over your notebook as you envisioned your future married life (we all did it). But unlike middle school, these future plans have real consequences. They could include forgoing other opportunities or offers because you’ve been led down a path that ends in…silence. We all deserve responses.
Mass communication is both the solution and the excuse. We excuse our behavior and that of others because “we’re so busy” and inundated with information from everywhere. But, on the flip side, it’s just as easy to communicate outward through those same channels. In the time you’ve been reading this article, I would bet money that a few of you stopped to respond to some email or text that came through. It only takes literal seconds to thoughtfully respond.
Communicating in 2019 is easy. If my mom is able to send me a text message, or an email at 7am about someone that she thinks I may know from high school that she saw in the grocery store, than we can also say things like “Thanks, but I’ve reconsidered” or “Sorry, still thinking about this but I’ve been busy” or even “I don’t like the idea but I’ve been too afraid to be an adult and say that in the first place”. If you think it may hurt to reject someone’s idea, please think of how much more it hurts to leave them hanging on.
On the other hand, perhaps YOU are the ghost. Have you abruptly left anyone waiting for an answer or update? Avoiding contact because perhaps you don’t want to deliver certain news? It’s not too late to return to the world of the living. Own your lack of communication and take action. Get back to those individuals and either deliver the closure they so desperately need, or help the project or candidate move along to the next stage.
Recruiters and hiring companies have been doing it to candidates for years. Weeks of fast paced interviews followed by weeks of silence, or even nothing at all. It comes as little surprise than that they’re facing the same ghost problem today. According to a Recruiting Daily study, over 58% of respondents say they’ve been ghosted by candidates recently. With the job market being as strong as it currently is, many aren’t waiting around for answers or even giving them. The script has flipped, but it certainly doesn’t make it any more acceptable.
As professionals, I call on everyone to take responsibility from their end as well if they think they’ve been ghosted. Don’t be afraid to respectfully check in, or to move on should it feel like the right thing to do. Every individual’s time is valuable – whether you are the CEO or just starting out. We all have the same amount of time in the day that we need to balance.
If you’ve tried all avenues of communing with the spirits and you still aren’t getting an answer, perhaps its best to put your energy and effort towards someone else or a different opportunity. Sometimes, no amount of emails or questions for the Ouija board are going to uncover an answer. Much like the dating world, there are plenty of fish in the sea and some are just better at communicating than others. Work with those fish.