Ghosters and the Ghosted




Larry Seal


You have likely experienced this phenomenon if you have been a manager looking to hire for an open position OR been on a dating site anytime in the last decade. It's the same dynamic regardless of whether you are looking for a new friend or partner or are a hiring manager.You find yourself amid a conversation about how the two of you might connect/work together, and suddenly, with no warning, the other person disappears, never to be heard from again. You've just been ghosted.

Why does this happen? What are the implications? Why should we care? With my Executive Coach hat on, I got curious about these questions, so I began conversing with employers and employees. I want to share my findings and perspective.



The phenomenon of ghosting is equal parts:rude, immature, and self-centered, AND it is also a well-deserved "Right back at ya, two can play at that game, buddy" to corporate America.


The Ghosted

Companies are reporting unprecedented numbers of potential new hires who simply disappear middle of a conversation about them joining their company. To add insult to injury, they also find that even if the employee goes through the hiring process successfully and accepts the new job, employees are "no-showing" to work without a word of explanation. in a world where technology has made communication so easy, you might think it wouldn't happen nearly as much as it does. Let's look at it from the Ghoster's POV. 


The Ghosters

Companies report the typical Ghoster profile is someone who grew up online (folks in their 20's and 30's) and has lots of experience interacting with others without being face to face i.e.electronically. That's not in any way a bad thing. It has been a very real part of life for the last 20 years. On the other hand, ,no one would say there aren't some seriously negative impacts of that acculturation. Please don't think I'm a hater; I grew up Gen X/Boomer, and we certainly have plenty of our own issues, but we are talking about another generation right now, so that’s way more interesting.  


Why is this happening?

For Millennials and younger, ghosting is nothing new, and it has been a regular part of their lives. That familiarity makes it more likely they will resort to it at times themselves. 

The irony, of course, is they absolutely hate it when someone ghosts them! It feels disrespectful, self-centered, immature and often leaves the ghosted party feeling incomplete and inadequate. 

When asked, Do they feel like that choice reflects poorly on the Ghoster? You bet they do. Ironically , just because they don't like it when someone does it to them, clearly doesn't mean that they won't turnaround and do it to someone else. 

Let’s look at the corporate side of things, recruiting departments have left tens of millions of job seekers in the same place. They moved from a more personal and polite relationship to a place where they either never responded to a resume/ inquiry or never followed up with the candidate, even after an interview. Is that equally disrespectful, self-focused, and unconcerned with the impact on the other party? I would vote absolutely yes. 

Ask the companies why, and they will quickly justify their part with stories of why it was just too much work to respond, especially to people they really weren't interested in. A good excuse? Not in my mind nor in the minds of those they ghosted. 

Does this phenomenon Matter?

Most everyone says "absolutely yes,"including the Ghosters on either side of this equation. 

Ask yourself: Would you do this to your Grandparents or someone else you cared about? Highly unlikely. Why? Because it would be hurtful to them.Everyone gets that, yet it doesn't stop many people from doing it to others anyway. Nice.

 When I asked about the more personal implications of ghosting, here is what people said:

  • When you ghost, it reflects poorly on your character because it shows your willingness to ignore another's feelings. It also shows you aren't willing to put in even a little effort to avoid leaving someone hanging and negatively impacting them.
  • Ghosting also reflects poorly on your emotional maturity and your communication skillset. Maturity can be defined as “living your life where you aren't "the center of all thinking and choices and are capable of and willing to meet others' needs, not just your own”.
  • Ghosters also said they will simply take what they see as the easy route and avoid a difficult conversation altogether and hope they will never encounter that person again. I heard "so who cares" if I am less than respectful in how I interact with them.

Two anecdotes about the implications for companies that choose to ghost potential employees: 

  • Recruiters tell me they have regretted their own and their company's choices about how they communicate and interact with prospective employees, especially when they can read the painful emotions in the emails they receive. 
  • One recruiting leader told me how someone they ghosted several years before ended a business relationship with their company in favor of a competitor once they got a management position at a client company. Karma.
  • Several people told me they had discouraged family members and friends from applying for work at their company because they weren't proud of the company culture and how they treated people.                            


To the Ghosters – do you think that theGhosted don't talk? Do you think they don't share their experiences with you?Do you believe that a choice today won't impact you down the road in this world of instant information and extreme connectedness? 

Look at the popularity of websites like GlassDoor. Employees share their experiences and rate their boss and their companies for any new potential employee and customer to consume. Doesn’t that have positive and negative impacts on your business and reputation? Do you believe that companies/recruiters need to have informal networks where they share the same information about the behavior and choices of potential hires? Of course it does.

Given all of this, would you like to start a company guaranteed to succeed? - Create a Glass Door like website where companies, recruiters, and hiring managers can anonymously share bad behavior from potential hires and current employees. It already exists informally.

You will be inundated with paying clients of all types (companies and employees) who are anxious to make better choices about who they choose to work with. I even have your company tagline "We speed Karma."


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