Pro-tip: No Ghosting at Work


Merriam-Webster has been on social media fire!  Example: ghosting.

Ghosting (the noun) and ghost (the verb) both describe this phenomenon of leaving a relationship of some kind by abruptly ending all contact with the other person, and especially electronic contact, like texts, emails, and chats.

It’s never ok to ghost people at work.  It’s not very smart, either.

HR and recruiters, I’m looking at you.  Don’t interview someone, and then cut off communications.  Form letters make it dead simple to end things simply and succinctly.

No, you don’t have to provide feedback.  (You probably shouldn’t.)  Just enough information to enable a candidate to cross you off their follow up list.

Sadly, this small act of politeness will burnish your employment “brand.”

Managers, leaders, I’m looking at you.  It never helps your company to stop communicating.  If you can’t get past your own feels about a colleague ask a trusted peer, colleague, or mentor, to figure out how to open up communications.

And when someone leaves, or gets fired?  Yes, boundaries are important.  You don’t have to treat someone like they’ve been banished from the village.  Your team members are watching you for cues on how your culture treats people.

And one day, you’ll leave, too.

Sometimes “relationship repair” is not the point.  For example, if someone is being harassed.  Being silent is not a solution; talk with a trusted leader on this tough issue.

Someone I talked with recently cited “kindness” as a reason to ghost someone.  (It may have been “empathy” or “compassion.”)

Um, no.   And especially not at work.

Now, I imagine that we’ve all ghosted someone.  What I actually mean is that I’ve ghosted someone.  (Though not so much at work.)

As I’m not a therapist, I can only tell my personal and unattractive truth:  ghosting came from my own deep discomfort, and unwillingness to be (what I thought was) the bigger person.  It came from a lack of skill in having relationships, and a choice to avoid pushing my own boundaries.  No more, no less.

It was not compassionate, empathic or kind.

Not even to myself.  Decades later, I’m occasionally haunted by thoughts of people I ghosted.  Not a great feeling.

The last time I was tempted, I didn’t. It wasn’t easy, but I’m much better for it.

Fact: as a leader, you don’t always get to choose the easy outs.

Photo:  “Ghosting,” by Kathryn Cartwright, via Flickr, used under CC 2.0 license.

Last Words on 2016 and #Management


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4362797246_59cedc1d6aI had been thinking of this last week of 2016 as a “reading week.”   A week to avoid work and other productive activity, as well as social media and other actions with unclear value.  Luxury.

Actually, it has has been reading, family, and —  since working for myself involves a need to respond to the unexpected — a couple of work phone calls.  Reality.

For the past few years, Twitter has been my front page to journalism and news.   So, in reality, I’ve been skimming.

And of course, I saw another one of those #management articles.  A startup tech CEO issuing people management edicts, based on how he (yes, “he,”) runs his company.

It’s gonna get tweeted and retweeted, people will bring it to their team meetings, with the non-question, “Here’s how This Guy Does It,” and the inference, “He Must Know What He’s Doing.”

Look, it may work for the CEO of HappyCo.  Pro-tip:  it may not work for you.

Just like bullet journaling, bullet coffee, green juice, GTD, paleo, powerlifting, morning pages and mindfulness (so-called.)

When you read a blog post — or a book — We’ve Found the Answer, and It’s How We Run Things at HappyCo, ask yourself if HappyCo looks like this:

  1. Privately held, often founder-led.
  2. Monopoly power of some kind, or proprietary IP.
  3. Number of employees is a single digit multiple of the Dunbar number.
  4. Often spending Other People’s Money

Other red-flags:  HappyCo is less than 10 years old; the CEO is “charismatic.”  Something Radical, Transparent, Happy, and/or Truthful/Honest is on offer.

And check recent events at HappyCo.  Do you see any organizational changes, or layoffs?  Do you know people who work there and can attest to whether these management practices actually create a solid working environment?  (What’s the turnover like at HappyCo?)

The HappyCo blog post should be read as a CEO speaking to his own team.

These blog posts can also serve as a weird sort of management.  When a CEO racks up enough social media capital about how he’s crushing it, his blog posts may serve to legitimize his practices.  Externally, and internally.

(Here’s how that might work.  A HappyCo employee grouses about workplace “stuff” to a friend who works elsehwere.  Gets shut down by friend, because it must be Awesome to work for HappyCo — based on friend’s reading of the CEO’s blog posts and tweets.)

So, practices you’re reading about may not even be working for the HappyCo CEO.

The best way to use blog posts from the HappyCo CEOs out there?  Approach them as information, as theory, as hypotheses.  (And also as a CEO’s diary.)

And then, use critical questions to decide whether the advice you’re reading is actually legitimate, for your organization.

tl;dr:  don’t get your management advice from the internet.

P.S.  For last words on my own 2016, beyond my regular gig, in 2017 I’ll bring more focus to creating/testing/developing management development projects:

  • A small group coaching cohort, around setting goals and being accountable to them.  (Email me if this sounds interesting.)
  • My newsletter:   Themes for next year include goals, mentoring, integrating new people to the team…
  • Monetizing my more public work, e.g. Painless Reviews.

I plan to engage more directly with news and ideas — without the mediating effects of social media.  I’ll subscribe to more news outlets, and newsletters.  (And do at least one more Reading Week, not during a holiday week.)

When I blog, maybe every other month or so, it will be more single-draft, tweetstorm like posts (like this one) and fewer super-polished pieces.

Onwards, 2017.

Photo:  Last Word Books, by Jason Taellious under CC 2.0.