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An Insight into Workplace Ghosting


LAST UPDATED: October 4, 2023

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past couple of years, you're probably familiar with the term ‘ghosting'. Once used to describe the actions of that hot guy/girl who you were messaging for 6 hours straight, 7 days a week and who then for no determinable reason disappeared off the face of the planet, ghosting has now also slipped into the working world. And just like in the dating game, it refers to reacting to a difficult situation by, well, not reacting at all.

Ghosting has actually been quite commonplace with employers for some time, although it's never been given a name before. How many times have you applied for a job and heard absolutely nothing back? Not even a rejection email? Or worse, not even an email confirming that your application has arrived at its intended destination? Yup, you've been ghosted. And it's such an accepted practice that most of us won't even think twice about it.

But now the tables are turning and more and more employers are finding themselves on the receiving end. The ghoster has become the ghostee…

Candidate ghosting can range from not showing up to arranged meetings or interviews, accepting a job offer and then being a no show on the first day, or even quitting a job by simply walking out and never coming back. All with no explanation or conversation with the employer or prospective employer. Sometimes the situation only becomes clear once the manger has made several attempts to contact the candidate and been unsuccessful.

Ghosting is even present in day to day work. Sometimes it's easier to just ignore that annoying email from your colleague, or to pretend you don't hear your phone ringing until it's too late.

This style of behaviour is not only rude but throws up real questions around office etiquette in the 21st century and what is considered acceptable. Is it generational? Do people who ghost others realise it's rude or are they unaware they're doing anything wrong? Is the digital age to blame?

We surveyed 100 people and 20% admitted to ghosting in one form or another. 
The most common being to avoid a difficult conversation by just ignoring the person concerned. However, almost all respondents (95%) consider it rude. 

Whatever the cause, it's becoming worryingly common within the working world and is really not acceptable from either side. For the employer, ghosting is usually a matter of policy and time saving. It's far quicker to only contact the applicants that are successful. But, where possible, there should be some form of communication even if it's just a generic rejection email. If that's not possible then it's very important to ensure the process is made clear to all prospective employees from the very beginning, that way they won't be waiting expectantly for an email that will never come. Ghosting unsuccessful applicants may not seem like a big deal, but it could lead to your company getting a bad reputation and might mean you miss out on the other top talent. As for candidates, ghosting is a sure fire way to burn bridges and give a bad impression of yourself. Especially when it comes to leaving a role. You never know when you'll need that good reference.

If you found this post useful, then check out our Mind Your Manners guide for employers and employees. It talks about other things people do at work that they really shouldn't, from Lateness to gossiping, and pulling a sickie to procrastinating. Download it now.