Ghosting has joined the business jargon, but the real shock is, how do you avoid workplace ghosting? Ghosting has gone from being a tactic used to end love relationships by stealth, to becoming an extremely common practice in business. Every day, more and more employees and clients disappear without explanation. Here’s how to avoid work ghosting and everything you need to know about this new low-profile method of resignation.
Social relationships have become digitalized to the point where we often notice that more and more people stop replying to our messages or e-mails and disappear. Sometimes it is only due to a lack of available time and eventual forgetfulness, but since the virtualisation of ghosting, we cannot be sure until it is too late. This is how this Anglo-Saxon term has spread to the business world; it can be found in clients, suppliers, or workers.
A recent analysis by the career guidance network Zen Hustlers revealed that work ghosting is a problem that has spread due to the depersonalization of professional relationships and the saturation of multifactor work. In other words, it has become more prevalent due to the new circumstances revolving around our work environment and how it develops. However, it is the public relations, sales, and human resources departments who are concerned about the increasing number of cases of employees and clients who suddenly abandon their commitments, even without regard for the duration of their contract or the settlement of their social benefits.
However, these circumstances are not the worst, but the triggers that can lead to the decline of a company and the undermining of years of work. To avoid falling victim to this tactic, we will explain in depth what it is, what are the factors that make it possible, how to avoid job ghosting, and some tips for dealing with this type of situation. Well, let’s get started!
Ghosting at work: What is it?
Ghosting comes from the English word ghost (literally, “ghost”), which is used colloquially to refer to people who leave a love relationship without warning and disappear without a trace. In other words, ghosting is the practice in which an individual leaves a relationship without telling the other party, resorting to actions such as ignoring messages, blocking from social networks or changing phone numbers. As this practice became more frequent, the term reached the Spanish-speaking population, being quickly adopted and evolving with the circumstances.
It is in this way that the concept of “labor ghosting” was eventually created and popularised to refer to anyone (workers, clients, or suppliers) who cease labor relations without prior notification. Commonly, those who carry out this tactic stop attending work from one day to the next without giving prior notice, do not answer phone calls made by counterparties, ignore emails requesting an explanation, and are often impossible to locate.
Types of Workplace Ghosting
A ghost worker is someone who leaves their job without informing the employer of their resignation. Often these people disappear during the recruitment process, even though they are certain that they will be chosen to fill the vacant position.
However, the situation can also occur during the first day and subsequent days up to a month’s time, where new employees often form their first impressions of the environment around them and make an analysis of whether or not it is appropriate for them to continue.
This situation can be detrimental to a company, as it undermines credibility and in the long run could lead to further costs. When a large number of drop-outs develop, the responsibility is shifted from the employees or external applicants to the company, which is seen as an unreliable source of work.
In addition, HR departments will need to carry out new recruitment processes to recruit staff, with the possibility that the company may need to recruit new staff. In this way, a company may need to restructure urgently and carry out various hasty actions to maintain order, especially in skilled jobs or jobs that require a large number of staff to be developed.
On the other hand, an analysis carried out by various HR teams from large companies worldwide revealed that ghost workers often resort to these tactics of furtive abandonment due to the fear they have of facing their superiors to tell them that they are leaving. In psychology, this type of behavior is known as the “avoidance style”, which consists of running away from unpleasant situations and avoiding problems, to the point where the mind is made to believe that they never happened and that this is the best solution.
For these people, it is less of a problem to quit their jobs than to give notice of resignation. However, this type of situation results in workers being blacklisted, damaging their reputation and making it impossible for them to apply for references.
It is common to find potential clients who will not return for reasons unrelated to the business, the most common cases being lack of capital, a greater interest in another project, or the impossibility of expressing rejection directly.
Commonly, we see clients requesting information and expressing hesitation before providing an answer, and they tend not to return, which is completely normal behavior. But, there are those who express an apparent genuine interest, even make preparations, and then disappear without a trace.
This can cause bewilderment and distress for those affected, as it is the abrupt culmination of an agreement that has been reached and can raise questions such as “What has been done wrong?”
Ghosting in business can eventually affect a company’s image and trustworthiness; as other customers and outsiders may develop a misconception about the company. Although it may seem mundane, opinions can seriously affect the reputation of a business.
Among the types of customers, we can find 5 subtypes, which are differentiated according to their degree of engagement and potential harm.
By learning more about these, it will be possible to develop better techniques to identify customer types, create strategies that generate greater engagement and avoid falling victim to work ghosting. Furthermore, the most frequent responses and behaviors among potential customers are divided into the following grades:
Grade I: where potential customers disappear without the courtesy of issuing a statement terminating the business relationship. This is the most common type of ghosting and by far the most unpleasant, because it generates an illusion and valuable time is lost.
Grade II: includes customers who desist from carrying out a business exchange, but who take the trouble to inform the counterparties involved. They are potential customers who may be able to make a deal in the future, so it is necessary to take care of them.
Grade III: refers to customers who answer phone calls and emails stating that they will continue with the commitment acquired, after resolving an inconvenience they are going through. Generally, they do not communicate again, so it is usually taken as soft-ghosting.
Grade IV: includes those who stop communicating due to inconveniences, but who subsequently apologize and carry out the business transaction. Therefore, they are those who act according to their statements; this is the type of target customer that any entrepreneur aspires to have.
This is the least common, as the purpose of their work is to supply certain inputs in order to generate remuneration. However, in recent years there have also been many cases of suppliers who disappear, do not provide the information requested of them, or give an image that is labeled as “lack of intention to sell”.
However, ghost suppliers are the type of ghosting that can cause the least damage to a company, as they do not directly harm it. In this situation, it is sufficient for those affected to enter into a business relationship with another supplier.
How does Workplace Ghosting occur?
As a general rule, it is caused by people’s desire to avoid situations that might cause them discomfort. Today, we live for appearances and superficial relationships, which leads many people to express what they think others want to hear, even if they do not share their opinions. However, instead of minimizing the adverse effects, it ends up aggravating them, since a negative response would end the matter between both parties, but continuing out of politeness harms those involved in the medium term.
On the other hand, a study conducted by a company that helps people find jobs according to their strengths, states that the most common causes are: fear that bosses will prevent them from quitting their jobs because they are vital personnel within the company, a bad professional environment, misleading job offers, long and tormented resignation process, as well as the lack of extrinsic motivations they are able to offer.
In addition, an analysis by Pew Research Center revealed that the greatest amount of job attrition comes from workers in the 23-38 and 22 and younger generations, who often lack the experience to apply for multiple job offers and manage them all at once smoothly. For example, if a worker is selected for a job offer and accepts, but then gets called back with a better offer, he or she will opt for ghosting and start in the position that suits him or her best.
However, it is not only young people who may engage in ghosting, as any worker with poor workplace rapport could engage in this practice. In fact, an analysis by AON, a leading human resources and risk management services company, found that 35 percent of the world’s population is prone to work-related ghosting. This makes the negative consequences for an organization all the more worrying, which could include the following:
Financial losses due to forced recruitment or delays in operations.
Confidential or vital information at risk.
Loss of reputation, credibility, and trust for any other entity with which economic relations are maintained.
These types of situations have led to changes in the dynamics of companies, who are now carrying out more thorough and forward-looking selection processes, requesting the signing of confidentiality and non-disclosure contracts, as well as encouraging better workspaces with greater freedom of expression so that employees feel free to express themselves.
How to avoid Workplace Ghosting: Tricks and tricks to get away with it
When it comes to workplace ghosting, the ideal is to learn how to identify it and apply techniques to minimize the damage. It may be impossible, but there are methods that can keep businesses away from this type of situation, as they aim to avoid the situations that cause it. Additionally, these techniques can also be applied when they have already suffered from cases of poaching:
Although not exact, in many cases you will be able to identify a potential job ghosting, because they will not state an exact date, but will talk about a hypothetical day. Vague answers such as “I’ll call you” or “Let’s meet in a few days” are indications of potential ghosting.
To prevent new recruits from disappearing, it is best to create more thorough selection processes, which will aim to get to know the screened participants in-depth. In this way, recruiters or HR staff can ask questions such as where the employee sees himself/herself in a few years or how committed he/she is.
One of the best alternatives to avoid ghosting by long-serving employees is to create spaces for free dialogue where employees can express themselves without fear or misgivings. Although this will not prevent potential resignations, it will allow employees to express the reasons for their decision, it will give them the opportunity to find another qualified person while the resignation process is taking place and the company will be able to analyze their weaknesses.
One of the reasons why millennials perform ghosting in business is because they do not feel comfortable in the environment in which they work, for these reasons, it is necessary to maintain a friendly working environment so that everyone can develop and feel comfortable working.
Often, people who do ghosting, do not have an authority figure they can approach to discuss a situation that bothers them, so they decide to leave without warning. One way to avoid this situation is to form accessible leaders who interact with employees – a person to turn to when they feel uncomfortable can make a big difference to a worker who is planning to leave.
As a tactic to attract a large number of workers, many companies use misleading job offers with ambiguous postings, so that by the time a worker is selected and finds out, he or she decides to ghosting to avoid going through an even more uncomfortable situation. It is best to use explicit job offers so that a competitive and challenging source will attract quality talent.
Ghosting in business can present itself in different approaches and moments of an employment relationship, which makes the task of analyzing and avoiding possible adverse effects even more complex. However, by implementing strategies based on the points on how to avoid work ghosting, they will be able to avoid this type of situation as much as possible.
Another analysis revealed that most workers who resort to this tactic do not do so because of adverse working conditions or because they do not want to lose face with others, but because they feel that their future boss or team leader will be an individual with whom they might have problems. In addition, there are cases where workers have obtained discouraging references from former employees, which ends up tipping the balance in their decision.
Finally, although the situations around us are complex and uncomfortable, ghosting is not the solution; it is behavior that denotes a lack of respect and professionalism. Therefore, when it comes to ending a professional relationship, it is always best to do so clearly and directly.