This is Why You Should Never Ghost Your Job

Whether you’re blowing off an interview or leaving your job without a trace, ghosting in the workplace has become an unfortunate phenomenon. Ghosting, when someone stops responding to another party without giving an explanation, has cropped up in every workplace situation from recruitment to ending employment. For the most part, studies show that most ghosting occurs when people book an interview and they just don’t show up. But sometimes, people don’t show up for their first day of work, walking out on their employer, or worse, just stop coming in. Robert Half district president Josh Howarth recently told the Washington Post that their recruiters have noticed a “ten to twenty percent increase” in ghosting over the past year. So what’s with this trend of leaving others in the lurch, and how can we break the cycle?

Why are people ghosting?

While employers might be baffled at the spooky mystery of ghosting, executive HR consultant and data analyst Maha Mubarak notes that though the pandemic has exacerbated tensions between prospective employers and employees, causing this flare of unprofessional behavior.

“Ghosting is more commonplace than one likes to think and has been happening across relationships, industries, and extended even globally,” Mubarak says. Over the pandemic especially, ghosting recruiters has become a trend – in fact, a report from Indeed notes that nearly half of prospective employers have bailed on an interview at the last minute. As to why this is, Mubarak says, is simple: In the post-COVID job landscape, the power dynamic has changed.

“The hiring market is seeing a shift in power from employer to employee. Ghosting used to be on the employer side, where an employer would stop responding to a potential candidate, or sometimes even not abide by a verbal offer,” Mubarak says. “And candidates across all levels hated that.”

It isn’t just about being irritated that a recruiter didn’t email you so much as a rejection letter, as the emotions behind feeling abandoned run on a much deeper level. A recent report from HR Magazine specifies that the majority (65%) of those polled have been ghosted by recruiters, and while this caused 94% to harbor negative feelings about said recruiters, for another 86%, it caused them to feel bad about themselves. This anger and tension builds up over years and results in the urge to treat recruiters as they’ve treated you – by ghosting them.

Ghosting can also occur not just in the recruitment process, but when one leaves their role behind, usually after they’ve given some form of notice. Those situations are substantially rarer, but Mubarak notes that they also come from a place of anger and frustration.

“Another thing yet exasperated by COVID-19 is that as we get more stressed with life’s demands,” Mubarak says, “we tend to want to avoid conflict and “discomfort,” which is why ghosting became popular in other places in life.” You can phrase it any way you want, like “cutting out the toxicity” or “setting boundaries,” but the end result is still the same: People ghost prospective jobs because they disregard recruiters, and people ghost their current jobs because they disregard their colleagues, and this hidden frustration is all masked by the urge to avoid confrontation.

Who’s doing the ghosting

Ghosting might seem like something you’d do to your boss at a fast-food joint, or to a recruiter for an entry-level job that gets thousands of applicants, but that’s not always the case.

“It may all be down to seniority, as people with more mature careers tend to care about their reputation and normally avoid ghosting,” Mubarak says. But even then, ghosting can happen at all levels. “I have a client who is a director at a global consulting firm, and they themselves complained of executive head-hunters or recruiters disappearing mid-process with zero feedback or callback.”

Factors like one’s industry, if they have a niche in said industry, and how tight their networks are all lead to a more mature rejection style. But if you’re feeling isolated, unheard, unappreciated, and you’re starting to feel like anyone could fill your role, chances are that you might feel tempted to ghost your employer at any stage of the process.

Workers of all kinds often cited that they ghosted recruiters because they received other offers, expressed dissatisfaction with their salary options, or just decided that it wasn’t the right job for them, but were too uncomfortable to tell the recruiter. But underneath that is something much more psychological. Unfortunately, burnout and frustration don’t discriminate, and even those looking for jobs at a higher level can have pent-up feelings about the job application process, their boss’s management style, their company’s lack of communication, or anything else that would lead to ghosting.

How employers can prevent ghosting

On the recruiting side, Mubarak says, the best way to prevent ghosting is to have a more human-centered way to both interview clients and reject them.

“I think everyone is actually sick of the hiring process, candidates and employers alike,” Mubarak says, “but much like anything that has to do with change, we tend to stick to what we know rather than experiment, share and discover.”

Automated responses, Mubarak says, are also a huge part of the problem, and they tend to harm potential work relationships more than they help them. She points to a recent viral Twitter post that showed mechanization leaves the recruiting process so disorganized that a company interviewed a candidate who was fired just a few weeks before.

“If companies right now go through recruiters and hiring managers every few years, who says you can’t apply at the same organization for a higher role in the future, without anyone even remembering you?” Mubarak jokes. “While 93% of companies say they track ghosters, 94% of employees haven’t seen repercussions yet. It could happen.”

Additionally, getting rid of these automated responses for something a little more personal can re-inject the human element on both sides. By depersonalizing the recruiting process, employees are being conditioned to believe that they’re ignoring a program rather than a person – which can be fixed, Mubarak says if people are added back into the equation.

“We’ve shifted to a world that is run by experiences, one which, for employers, really starts at the presiding process,” Mubarak says. “If the candidate feels like the recruiters or hiring managers aren’t instead of thinking about candidates as being risky or unskilled, they’d rather ghost.”

Give up the ghosting

On the employee’s side, there are a number of reasons that one shouldn’t ghost their prospective employer. There are practical reasons, like throwing away a reference for a future role, or moral reasons, like leaving others in the lurch. But most importantly, you refrain from ghosting because you want to be a better person.

“If you think about how COVID-19 exacerbated the ghosting trend, it coincides with the current shift in power and can be seen as a reciprocation,” Mubarak says. But this psychological concept is called “identification with the aggressor,” and it helps more than it hurts. In this model, you feel that you’ve been demeaned, attacked, or ignored by an aggressor, and rather than learning from how much their behavior hurt you, you begin to take on these hostile characteristics and become the aggressor yourself. So if you feel you’ve been ghosted by recruiters or that your pleas for help to bosses or colleagues are going unheard, you take on the characteristics of your aggressor and ghost the ones who ghosted you.

However, that’s not the best response you have in your arsenal. Even if you don’t like your boss, you get an automated email from a recruiter, or you’re overwhelmed with how depersonalized the interview process can be, there are always more mature ways to handle rejection and disappointment. Communicating isn’t hard if you make the effort to be honest and level-headed, and when it’s all said and done, you’ll feel much better about yourself tying up loose ends than just leaving them to haunt you forever.

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