Multiple articles appeared in the past week in the Washington Post, Fox Business and Business Insider after the Federal Reserve of Chicago in its December Beige Book cited that “a number of contacts said they had been ‘ghosted,’ a situation in which a worker stops coming to work without notice and then is impossible to contact.”
While these media sources marveled at the crossover of this typically millennial dating behavior into the workplace, those of us that live each day on the front lines of hiring in the era of the skilled labor shortage saw this comment as no surprise at all. Candidates “no-showing” for interviews, newly hired employees not appearing for their first day of work or newer employees disappearing completely from the workplace has sadly become a common phenomenon in this extraordinarily tight labor market.
Millennials or Generation Yers often explain that they are the “Y Generation” because they want to know “why” they are being asked to do X, Y, or Z in the workplace. They want to experience a sense of purpose at work and understand the role that they are playing within their organization. At the same time, their communication skills are very different from past generations, relying heavily on texting, which has a short format, lacks formality and has limited regard for traditional etiquette.
In the case of “ghosting,” we have the collision of these two forces: high career expectations and unconventional communication. In the Washington Post article (“Workers are ghosting their employers like bad dates”), author Danielle Paquette discusses the subject of “ghosting” with Melissa and Johnathan Nightingale, co-authors of “How F*cked Up Is Your Management?: An Uncomfortable Conversation About Modern Leadership.” The Nightingales remark, “Employees leave jobs that suck. Jobs where they are abused. Jobs where they don’t care about the work. And the less engaged they are, the less need they feel to give their bosses any warning.” When Millennials do not receive the sense of reward or purpose that they so desperately desire from their jobs, they feel a break in the trusted pact between employer and employee. As in many unhealthy relationships, ranging from immature ones on the playground to dysfunctional ones in a marriage, if a person treats me like garbage, I’m going to treat them like garbage back. And a “job break-up text” or no communication at all is that form of garbage.
And that’s what ghosting is. It’s simply treating an institution of authority (an employer) with the same lack of respect that the employee feels they are experiencing themselves. In this way, perhaps ghosting seems understandable.
Tip: If you are an employer that is being ghosted, it is probably time to look carefully at your hiring process and employment experience to see where that feeling of disrespect may be coming from.
As Michelle Obama declared in her 2016 convention speech, “When they go low, we go high.” Well, ghosting is definitely not going high. In fact, ghosting is a stark illustration of the destruction of civility and politeness in society, a trend that should concern all of us.
No doubt it’s disrespectful to the employer. It is costly to hire and train employees and it is difficult to manage any business when employers don’t know who is actually going to appear for work tomorrow. Less obvious perhaps, the constant emotional injury to employers results in a form of management scar tissue, whereby an employer who might have invested more heavily and earlier in employees becomes jaded and frustrated and begins to tip in the other direction where the organization withholds investment and commitment for longer periods of time. This reaction further frays and weakens the bond between employers and employees.
The act is also disrespectful to the employee themselves. By ghosting, the candidate or employee throws himself or herself into a separate category from the higher-quality employees in the job market. He or she is effectively saying, “I am not worthy of being respected. I am different than the employees who would have just spoken to a manager about not liking their job.” The effects of making this statement and putting himself or herself in this separate category are devastating and lasting. At our firm, in our many years of recruiting, we have witnessed that these rash acts leave a deep, indelible brand on the employee’s career in the form of bad employer references, uneven work history and flip-flopping career directions. It’s often visible in the interview when the candidate can’t quite bring himself or herself to make eye contact with the interviewer, because the candidate knows that he or she is likely to ghost again.
Unbeknownst to these individuals, ghosting is a form of career suicide. In most cases, it is detectable in the tea leaves of a resume, an interview, a local employer network or job references, but, even when it falls between the cracks and disappears from detection, it remains, etched in the mind of the individual, diminishing his or her expectations of what he or she is capable of.
Adam Himoff is President of Xemplar, an innovative recruiting and workforce solutions company that enables U.S. clients to beat the skilled labor shortage. Xemplar was recently recognized as Salt Lake City’s #1 rated employment agency by Top Rated Local! To learn more about Xemplar visit our website at www.xemplar.com.