The trend is all too familiar. You meet someone. You have a good rapport, and you think there’s something there — respect, or at least connection.
But then, suddenly, they’ve disappeared. Your texts and emails go unanswered. Your attempt at cyber-stalking is to no avail. Poof! They’re gone forever.
This annoying magic trick, commonly known as “ghosting,” is usually associated with modern dating culture. As people become more callous and less confrontational, they’re deciding to just fade into the night, never to be seen or heard from again. It’s a nasty habit that almost everyone who’s been recently single has experienced, and it marks a strict departure from the civil “it’s not you, it’s me” conversations we once had.
Now, it seems our personal behaviors are leaking into our professional lives. Not only are job applicants not showing up for interviews, but actual employees have taken to “ghosting” their bosses at work. This bizarre phenomenon is so prevalent that it’s earned a reference in the Federal Reserve‘s Beige Book this year.
“A number of contacts said that they had been ‘ghosted,’ a situation in which a worker stops coming to work without notice and then is impossible to contact,” the entry reads.
That means that, instead of giving two weeks’ notice and a reason for leaving, employees have decided to make their superiors deduce that they’re not returning to work through unexplained absence after absence. This sounds like an HR nightmare, with no exit interview, lack of clarity on when to cut off pay, and no time to refill positions.
So why are workers ghosting their companies?
Because they can
The little evidence we have on professional ghosting seems to indicate that people are doing it simply because it’s possible. In this economy, even if one employer marks your name with a big red ex, there are many more looking to hire who will take your application with open arms. So why not ghost when it’s so easy to do?
Well, partly because it hurts your reputation. But it’s also not very professional. Just as we don’t like to be ghosted in dating culture, employers don’t like to unknowingly lose their workers. There’s no need for an elaborate breakup speech; in fact, it’s better to keep the drama at bay. But do at least have the decency to quit.
Employers ghost, too
It’s important to note that employees aren’t the only ones ghosting. Employers and recruiters have a bad habit of ignoring people after an interview, and that leads to a lot of follow-ups and lack of transparency. Only 2% of Fortune 500 companies get back to potential candidates about their application, which means that 98% are ghosting the people who want to work for them.
So maybe companies had a little bit of karmic blowback coming. Still, it’s crazy to think Joe from accounting may just not show up tomorrow.