No Response is A Response

I recently read an article about ‘ghosting’ in the workplace.  Ghosting had been defined, as “no response is a response.” The term is usually used about dating and is akin to being stood up. I was disappointed, perhaps naively so, to see the word and the practice rearing its ugly head at the workplace.

In the dating realm, ghosting means that after you’ve talked or hung out with someone they unexpectedly cut off all communication.  There is no warning and no explanation regarding the end of the connection. This type of behaviour used to be called “being stood up” and left the unsuspecting person sitting alone at a restaurant or standing outside a movie theatre.

At the office, ghosting means not showing up for an interview, not responding to a job offer, or just not reporting for work on their first day. The company is left wondering what happened to the person and where things went wrong in the recruiting process.

The article states one possible explanation for ghosting is the perpetrators ‘inexperience’ in dealing with awkward situations, as ghosters tend to be younger workers. While it is true that younger individuals may not have had to decline a job offer or cancel an interview, it is hard to believe that in the course of their life, a younger person hasn’t had one awkward conversation or hasn’t learned some basic manners.

I understand that people may not want to call and disappoint someone or potentially engage in a tough talk, but in today’s world calling isn’t the only option (though being able to have a tough talk is a valuable skill).  Texting, emailing, or leaving a message with a receptionist are options that save any potential awkwardness. Rather than end a relationship in a positive way, the ghoster has now created a negative experience and will likely be remembered as unprofessional and unreliable. By taking the ‘easy way’ out now, ghosting creates a harder way later.

Two Wrongs Make A Right?

The article suggests the second reason is the employer’s fault because of the impersonal and one-sided and inconsiderate recruiting practices of the past couple decades. I can relate; it’s not fun to take the time to carefully craft cover letters and resumes, apply for a job and receive an auto-email if you’re lucky and to go through the interview process only to be told ‘you’re not a fit’ or ‘we’re going in a different direction.’ The result is no job and no meaningful feedback to help in the future.

Perhaps I’m overthinking ghosting, what’s the big deal? In a culture where many (younger) people are struggling to find meaning, connection, and purpose at work – how does it serve to skip the basic rules of civility? Ghosting is simply unprofessional and immature behaviour that impacts not just the person who was ghosted, but the organization’s bottom-line and the reputation of the ghoster. The resources to advertise, recruit, and onboard a potential new employee add up quickly, and wasted resources in one area impact corporate spending capability in other areas – such as raises and benefits.

The worst part of ghosting though is the lack of respect shown by the ghoster toward the ghostee. People remember how you made them feel for a long time. Can you imagine your reaction if the shoe was on the other foot? When you act disrespectfully – how do you feel about yourself? What are the costs to your professional reputation when you are known to be disrespectful and rude – how do you think your career will progress?

The article lists inexperience and poor corporate behaviour as rationalizations for ghosting. I think accepting ghosting as the way things are now illustrates a growing trend toward incivility.  Seems the adage “two wrongs don’t make a right” and “the golden rule” aren’t what they used to be.  It is important to take the time to consider how your behaviour is contributing to the growing problem of incivility in the workplace and if nothing else – how this disrespectful behaviour impacts your day.

If you would like to learn and practice how to handle an awkward conversation and the benefits of civility, please contact me.

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