For modern singletons who have become accustomed to swiping left or right before ever meeting a potential partner in person, the idea of ghosting is now the norm (though it’s still pretty terrible when you’re on the receiving end). Around 72% of adult internet users now use Facebook, with around 15% of American adults saying they’ve ever used a dating site or mobile dating app.
So while not everyone is meeting their next boyfriend or girlfriend this way, there’s a fair amount of people who are acquainted with meeting someone on the internet. It stands to reason that there’s also a fair amount of people who have dumped someone they’ve met on the internet — or even worse, decided to ignore them completely, out of the blue, after talking for days, weeks, or months.
That, as you may know, is called ghosting. You simply — poof — disappear into thin air like your quasi-relationship never existed (though like a ghost, you may continue to haunt the person by appearing in their inbox or watching their Instagram stories in a not-so-stealthy way). If you’ve ever been ghosted, you know it isn’t especially fun. You’re left wondering what you did wrong, without any closure. But in the end, you do what most people do after any relationship ends: you spend time with friends, maybe buy one of the two different types of exercise equipment on the market (to get that revenge bod), or alternatively cry into a whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Eventually, you move on — and probably start the whole cycle again.
But the whole concept becomes a bit more complicated when the situation is professional, rather than personal. Being ghosted by an employee is just as confusing, if not more infuriating, than being ghosted by someone you thought was a viable romantic interest. And that’s precisely what’s happening to many employers in the modern age.
Employers have reported that ghosting is becoming more common in the workplace. Potential candidates may not show up for a scheduled interview or may choose not to call a hiring manager back. New hires don’t always show up on their first day of work. Sometimes they can’t be reached when contacted. In some cases, long-term employees may just never return without giving notice.
There are those who may chalk up the trend to a lack of good manners or employee loyalty. And while some of that may be true, experts say that having a healthy job market often leads to situations like these. When job candidates have several options to choose from, they’re less likely to feel like they’re obligated to follow through for the sake of niceties. Plus, the idea of ghosting tends to be more appealing for those who don’t like confrontation. Considering that around 64% of Americans owned an iPhone or other Apple product in 2017, it’s not surprising that many young people would opt to simply not show up rather than have an awkward conversation. If they’re given the choice to simply opt out without having to put themselves in an uncomfortable situation, can you really blame them for choosing to ghost?
Of course, there are definitive downsides. For the employee, ghosting makes it highly unlikely they’ll get a reference for a new job if they need it — and they probably won’t have a long-term position to put on their resume. Since job-hopping can be a red flag for some employers, this habit could jeopardize their future ability to get hired for a job they really want.
For the most part, however, it’s the employers who take a hit. The costs of employee turnover can already be astronomical, but when faced with a totally unexpected situation like this, the business can really suffer. But experts say that, instead of blaming the employee for their poor form, hiring managers may want to take a closer look at their own tendencies to see whether improvements need to be made.
Many HR professionals say that managers and business owners may need to work on their own communication skills and actually address the underlying issues that may have caused employees to stop showing up. Because employees may not feel comfortable speaking up out of fear — or may have felt like their concerns weren’t actually heard in the past — it may be a symptom of a bad corporate culture.
It could also be a sign that the employer is a bit out of touch. Pete Davis, president of recruiting company Impact Management Services, explained in an interview with the Associated Press: “Employers still have the attitude, or are behaving like they do, that people should be lucky to have a paycheck.” Davis suggested that young workers want to stay with an employer who appreciates them and their contributions and addresses their needs; when employers don’t, workers leave — simple as that.
That doesn’t excuse employees who choose to ghost, however. And the reality is that most workers will still give their customary notice. But whether they choose to ghost out of spite or simply because they don’t feel there’s another way to leave, it’s usually a good idea to try to examine the why, rather than dismissing the incident as a hiring error or an outlier. Just like when you’re ghosted by a date, you may never get answers from that person — but it may be much more than a “it’s not you, it’s me” type of scenario in the end.