This week, we discuss a topic familiar to anybody who has dated in the past decade: Ghosting. For those who met their matches before the advent of Facebook, Snapchat, and Bumble, ghosting occurs when two people are texting and/or messaging online and one person, with no warning or explanation, decides not to respond, basically, forever. The relationship is abruptly over; the person has “ghosted”.
It seems that lower barriers to communication make it much easier to avoid a “DTR”, that painful “define-the-relationship” talk which is usually an incredibly awkward mid-afternoon conversation in a public coffee shop. As explained by a 26-year-old in a Quartz article: “No one wants to have an uncomfortable conversation where they basically are like, ‘I don’t like you, and here’s why, and I don’t feel like hanging out with you is worth my time.’”
While it’s easy to dismiss this behavior as a byproduct of crazy online dating, the practice of ghosting — which is basically the avoidance of a difficult conversation and what we would consider an absence of basic decency — is quickly extending into the workplace, much to the chagrin of HR professionals. A LinkedIn article explains more:
“Where once it was companies ignoring job applicants or snubbing candidates after interviews, the world has flipped. Candidates agree to job interviews and fail to show up, never saying more. Some accept jobs, only to not appear for the first day of work, no reason given, of course. Instead of formally quitting, enduring a potentially awkward conversation with a manager, some employees leave and never return. Bosses realize they’ve quit only after a series of unsuccessful attempts to reach them. The hiring process begins anew.”
Anecdotally, we have heard of this issue from all of our portfolio companies, who routinely have current and prospective employees ghost with shocking frequency. While the “no-call-no-show” has been a longstanding issue in most hourly, blue-collar workforces, it seems that a strong economy, record low unemployment, and changing cultural norms have made this practice more prevalent, extending across industries, geographies, and job types.
While it’s easy to complain about this behavior, we as employers must also acknowledge our role in the world of corporate ghosting. As Peter Cappelli, management professor and director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources, notes, for decades, job candidates would spend hours applying for jobs and preparing for interviews, and often would not get any response back from prospective employers. As one Twitter user commented on the subject, “When employers don’t return any contact after an application, phone calls, and polite follow-up emails, that’s considered a professional standard. But now that some people haven’t shown up to interviews, millennials are now ‘ghosting’ the workplace. Right.”
We, like many others, have started to adjust to our new reality by allocating more resources towards finding, hiring, and developing our workforce but we must also do our part to rebuild trust between the employee and the employer. Until we accept that we also have a responsibility to communicate back to those people who apply for positions at our company but did not get an interview, or who will not be accepted to the next round after an interview, we are just as guilty of ghosting as anybody else.