Many of us have faced silence while waiting to hear back from a prospective employer, only to end up hearing nothing at all.
But now, an increasing number of job applicants and workers are vanishing from offices without any reason why.
Ghosting, when someone cuts off all communication without explanation, first came to light as a phenomenon in the dating world - but it’s becoming increasingly common in the workplace too.
Earlier this year, Indeed surveyed 900 employers and over 4,000 job seekers and found that 83% of companies that were recruiting said they’d been ghosted by candidates. Nearly three-quarters (69%) of them said that this is a recent phenomenon that’s sprung up in the past two years.
“Today’s competitive hiring market and record-low unemployment rates have catapulted employee ghosting to the top of the list of growing concerns for recruiters and HR leaders,” says Dania Shaheen, vice president strategy & people operations at the HR firm Kazoo.
“Ghosting can occur in any stage of the employee lifecycle – from the interviewing, hiring and onboarding processes all the way through offboarding efforts.
“When an applicant ghosts a potential employer, it usually signals that the applicant is no longer in the job market,” she explains. “But when an employee ghosts their current employer – either during the onboarding process or within their first 90 days – it typically means that the role isn’t a good fit or they don’t feel comfortable speaking up to their managers or in their workplaces.”
There are multiple reasons why a candidate would go to the trouble of applying for a job, only to ghost the employer. According to the Indeed survey, more than half of respondents said the job wasn’t right for them and 40% ghosted after receiving another offer. Nearly a quarter - 22% - said they ghosted an employer because the salary wasn’t good enough.
However it’s not all down to the employee, but also the recruiter too. More than a quarter - 26% - of those who ghosted said they weren’t comfortable telling the employer they didn’t want to take the job. Some said they felt they were lied to, misled, or treated rudely.
There’s also a sense of impunity when it comes to ghosting, too. There’s little an employer can do if they are ghosted by a potential employee - and 94% of job seekers experience little to no negative consequences from doing it.
Business as usual?
“It’s important to remember that despite the wide variety of types of employee ghosting, it’s largely a learned behaviour,” Shaheen adds. “Past employers’ bad business practices may have allowed employees to think that ghosting is part of business as usual.
“HR leaders and managers can work to change this standard by setting a new precedent for these employees. In hiring and firing practices, employers should take care not to ghost applicants themselves and maintain clear, courteous channels of communication with potential and existing employees.”
To prevent current employees from ghosting, Shaheen advises managers to schedule one-on-one meetings in the first 30 days of employment to see how they are settling into their new role.
“As a follow up, managers can work with their new hires to track their performance over the first 90 days, and proactively address any signs of trouble as soon as they arise,” she says.
“Creating a strong feedback culture within an organisation that encourages fearless, open dialogue is also key to preventing employee ghosting. This way, existing employees – or those on their way out – feel comfortable giving notice or having awkward conversations without fear of retribution.”