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.

2 thoughts on “Pro-tip: No Ghosting at Work

  1. Great post! I feel ya – though I haven’t ghosted anyone. (I’ve been ghosted (before it was such a “thing”) personally and unfortunately more often professionally over the last year. I even wrote a LI post touching on your same point about burnishing the brand. I think some employers forget that WOM is powerful and at some point quality talent will hear it and perhaps will no longer apply.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply be kind and treat others as we’d like to be treated? Glad Jenn WW directed me to your post.

    Here’s the link to my post if you’d like to check it out.

    1. I’m so sorry that I missed this comment when you wrote it. And I couldn’t agree with you more. We just don’t have enough time here to treat one another badly.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and reading.

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