Blog - What Is Workplace Ghosting?

What Is Workplace Ghosting?

“Ghosting” is an online dating practice that has become widespread among Millennials and Generation Z. In this cruel behavior, a person ceases communications with a suitor rather than saying they are no longer interested in a relationship. Phone calls and emails go unanswered. Texts remain unread. Complete silence feels as if the person has become a “ghost.”

Now, job candidates and even employees have begun ghosting employers in the workplace, and the trend is growing rapidly. Ghosting has become such a problem for employers that the U.S. Federal Reserve recently noted the trend in its Beige Book economic report.

What is ghosting at work?

Workplace ghosting occurs when a candidate or an employee vanishes without any further communication. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes the average cost per new hire is $4,129, so if a new hire doesn’t show up for the first day of work or quits unexpectedly sometime early in their employment, recruiting time and money has been wasted.

The most common examples of workplace ghosting are:

  • A candidate makes an appointment for an interview but does not show for the interview and never communicates with the employer again.
  • A business tries to extend an offer of employment, but the candidate never responds.
  • A candidate accepts an offer, but fails to show on the first day of work.
  • An existing employee quits coming to work without providing any notice or formal resignation to the employer.

Why are employees and job applicants ghosting employers?

The strong state of the job market is a primary reason that candidates and employees feel empowered to ghost employers. U.S. unemployment has recently recorded a historic 18-year record low. Jobs are available for nearly every person who wants to work. In this environment, top candidates receive offers from multiple employers and younger candidates may be naive to the fact that the job market will remain this strong forever.

At the same time, cultural attitudes about communication in general have changed. Millennials and Gen Zers don’t like phone calls and don’t like confrontation. Many see ghosting as an easier way to say no to employers than having an awkward meeting or telephone call followed by paperwork and offboarding routines. A survey by Clutch revealed 41% of job seekers find it acceptable to ghost employers.

How common is ghosting at work?

Ghosting employers has become surprisingly common, according to HR experts and surveys of recruiters, workers, and employers. According to USA Today, “many businesses report that 20 to 50 percent of job applicants and workers are pulling no-shows in some form.” During the interview process, candidates skip out on as many as three out of every ten interviews. Ghosting is not just for interviews; it happens all along the recruiting and onboarding journey. For example, about one in ten registered nurses at two Orlando, Florida area hospitals “go dark” after receiving an offer of employment.

Three ways to cut down on workplace ghosting

Unfortunately, the workplace ghosting phenomenon is probably here to stay. But are three things employers can do to improve the situation:

1. Use the golden rule during recruitment
Here’s a brutal truth: although ghosting a prospective employer is terribly unprofessional, many candidates have themselves experienced ghosting by recruiters. Should businesses expect to be treated with more courtesy than they extend to their candidates? Provide regular communication throughout the hiring process to keep candidates informed. If an applicant’s resume was not a match for the position, tell them they are not being considered. Notify candidates that interviewed if the offer gets extended to (and accepted by) someone else.

2. Reward hard work and top talent
When an existing employee quits without notice and ghosts their employer, it usually means they have felt slighted or unappreciated in some way. When employees become disgruntled, they may believe “turnabout is fair play.” In one painful example, a water park promoted an employee to a manager title without increasing his salary. After performing the new duties for some time but failing to get his raise, the manager ghosted and left the park closed down at a cost of $25,000+ in lost revenue for the day.

3. Interview more candidates
Many HR departments are dealing with ghosting by keeping more candidates in the recruiting pipeline. By setting more interviews and identifying additional qualified prospective hires, employers can avoid a lengthy hiring cycle due to interview no-shows and post-offer ghosting.

Strong talent management practices reduce ghosting

Good communication with candidates, regular recognition of existing employees, and a culture of mutual respect can help organizations reduce the likelihood of workplace ghosting. Talent management solutions from Asure Software are an important tool for increasing employer responsiveness throughout the recruiting and onboarding process.

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