Ghosting at Work: Harmful to Your Brand

Caspar-the-friendly-ghost may be harmless, but ghosting at work is not —  for either the individual or employer brand.

The practice of “ghosting” – when one person ends a relationship without warning or explanation – has spread from the dating scene to the workplace. It occurs when people:

  • Don’t show up for job interviews
  • Don’t show up for their first day on the job or don’t return to work after starting a new job
  • Quit with no notice.

The term “ghosting” may be new but the phenomenon is not, as I recently learned. The long-time owner of a retail service business shared her experience with new employees who didn’t return to work after lunch their first day on the job. She attributed it to an inability to admit dislike of the work and/or an inflated sense of self-importance; i.e., “I don’t need to let the boss know I don’t care to work here anymore.”

According to HR professional Tina R. Hamilton, “Ghosting is the new word for an old problem.

“Since I entered the world of HR in the 1980’s, employees no-showed for work or seemed to drop off the face of the earth, and applicants suddenly disappeared just when you thought you had a good one. It is an unfortunate situation [and] I think that, in some cases, employers can look within and see if there is anything more they could have done to keep the employee/applicant more engaged in the process or in the job.”

The economy and some employers are also partly to blame
Today’s low unemployment, in which employees have more job opportunities and companies are challenged to find and keep talent, is one reason for increased ghosting at work.

The quality of a company’s culture and leadership also impacts ghosting. Frustrated and/or burned out employees find it easier to disengage from a toxic situation by leaving without notice; i.e., “If the people in management don’t care about me, why should I care about them?”

Another contributing factor is the backlash to years of HR ghosting when prospective employees get no response to applying for jobs (with their resumes “falling into HR’s black hole”) and when serious job candidates hear nothing from a company after completing one or more interviews. Here’s Hamilton’s take on this:

“As far as employers notifying applicants, there are so many options with technology that can notify applicants automatically that there is almost no excuse to not notify applicants. Even if an employer does not have an applicant tracking system, they can save reject applicants with a simple email reply. It fairs poorly on the employer if they do not respond in some way, especially if it involves an applicant who has spent time in a live interview process.

“In a tight labor market like we have today, it is critical to have your company look its best in the eyes of the applicants.”

Regardless of the economy, employers and employees need to be professional and responsible when dealing with each other.

When it comes to communicating about applying for, starting, or leaving a job, any form of ghosting is unacceptable as it reflects poorly on the source. In this case, no news isn’t good news.

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