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Employee Ghosting: What Is It and How Do You Put an End to It?

Employee Ghosting: What Is It and How Do You Put an End to It?

Ghosting has unfortunately become a near common practice in our modern workplace. Many HR teams dealing with issues of ghosting are forced to take legal actions in order to deal with the issues. Beyond this it can cause work delays, increased workload for fellow employees, and even cost the organization time and money. So why does this keep happening? And how do you begin to combat such practices? Read on to learn what may be the cause of ghosting in your organization, and what methods you can use to finally put an end to it. 


What is Employee Ghosting?

Employee ghosting is the act of cutting off all communications between you and your employer. The primary motivation for ghosting is to end communications without creating conflict. However, by avoiding conflict, you may inadvertently cause even greater conflict.


What Is Candidate Ghosting?

Much like employee ghosting, candidate ghosting involves an applicant or new hire, cutting off all communication with the hiring manager, and effectively disappearing. As is the case with employee ghosting, candidate ghosting can be cause for concern. It means the time and energy spent working with the applicant as well as any onboarding efforts were effectively a waste of both time and resources. 


Why Is Workplace Ghosting on the Rise?

As a part of an Indeed survey, 28% of employees claimed they ghosted an employer in 2020. This is nearly 10% higher than what was surveyed for the 2019 year. 76% of employers claim they were ghosted by employees, while about 57% said they believed the practice was even more common than the numbers suggest. 

It is possible that the rise in ghosting occurrences could be a sign for what is to come. The more common the practice becomes the more ingrained it will be in our culture. According to SHRM, it is commonly believed that younger people, having a history with such apps where ghosting originated, may be primarily responsible for its commonality in the modern workplace. Younger people tend to avoid potential conflict, rather than embrace it. 

Clinical Psychologist, and CEO of Live In Their World, says "Younger job seekers have ghosting experience from dating apps, and from growing up texting—or not replying to texts that might lead to hard conversations. People who grew up before texting had more practice with challenging conversations before applying to jobs. In order to break up—or be broken up—with a boyfriend/girlfriend or end a friendship, we usually had difficult conversations." 

With numbers as high as Fifty-four percent of employees showing regret for their acts of ghosting, it may be time for younger job seekers to re-evaluate the method. 

Low unemployment numbers may also be contributing to a rise in employee ghosting. According to the Department of Labor, the current unemployment rate sits around 4.8% which is not quite as low as the 3.7% in 2019 just prior to the pandemic, though much better than the recession numbers that were faced in the midst of 2020. 

When employees or applicants feel they have more leverage in a business situation, it can cause one-sided decisions. You pair this with a growing culture that labels ghosting as “the norm” and you begin to see an increased rate in employee and applicant ghosting. 


How Do You Stop Employee Ghosting?

The very first step toward culling your chances of being ghosted is to be sure you as an HR department are not ghosting new hires and employees. The more frequent the act of ghosting becomes the more normalized it becomes as well. If employees see that HR tends to ghost employees, they will begin to feel this is a typical practice with no real consequence. 

What if you’re already proficient in communication and feedback? Even if your HR department does an excellent job of maintaining communication, you may still run into the issue of being ghosted. So what can you do to mitigate this issue? 

Employers should focus on following compliance best practices, and remaining forthright throughout the hiring process. A common reason for ghosting on the employee's part, is actually for fear of conflict. Perhaps they fear that a company may be offended if they turned down their offer, or that the employer has wasted their time, or perhaps there may even be feelings that all bridges will be burned with said organization. With all of this on the mind, simply cutting off communications can feel like the simplest and most effective solution. 

It is crucial to conduct the interview and hiring process in a manner that offers the employee peace of mind in knowing that the process will remain civil and compliant. If an employee does not fear unwarranted conflict, then they will be much more likely to communicate their true feelings on the position. Here are a few major points that can be helpful when looking to eradicate ghosting.

  • Communication is key for any HR department. Check in with employees on a regular basis to ensure that all employees are satisfied and without major concern. When conducting interviews, remain honest, and straightforward. Circle back with potential new hires regarding frequent updates throughout the process. Set the tone that communication will be at the forefront of the process. You can also utilize tools such as surveys. Surveys provide an excellent opportunity for employees to give feedback in a safe way, without concern for conflict.

  • Educate management staff. Effectively trained supervisors can skillfully handle the nuanced relationships with each of their employees. Central to any good performance management strategy is developing and maintaining a handbook of standardized processes and best practices. We call this the manager manual. Offering clear and consistent training amongst all managers is crucial to the success of your organization. When employees look to leave a company they are oftentimes really looking to leave their boss. Or so the old adage goes. Sayings however, come from a basis of truth. If employees trust their managers, and feel secure in laying out their complaints and concerns without fear of reprisal, they are much less likely to ghost. It is when managers lack the proper guidance and training, that employees begin to fear the repercussions of choosing to leave. They then in turn take the easy road and complete their final disappearing act. 

  • Don’t halt communication after the candidate is officially hired. Maintain communication with candidates beyond their acceptance of the position. This offers new employees an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings from the very beginning. In turn this opens the door to a healthy relationship with said employee, greatly reducing the risk of potential ghosting. You may also wish to monitor employee performance. 1:1 meetings are a great practice that can allow your employees an opportunity to see where they are successful and where they can improve.

  • Be specific in your message. If you can show people why you are special and how your organization stands apart from your competitors, it can help you to attract top quality candidates who share your vision. Employees are less likely to ghost an opportunity that feels tailored to their ideals and goals. 

  • Be straightforward with policy. If the expectation is to be in the office by a certain time, or on certain days, then be transparent about that from day 1. It may seem obvious, but if employees are aware of the set in stone policies then they will be less likely to abandon ship. This can easily be accomplished via use of a “Culture Guide.” This is a great way to convey early on the exact expectations of the employees in writing. Having a guide such as this can help employees to understand exactly what is needed in order to remain compliant. 

  • Show positive reinforcement when employees succeed. It is quite easy to bring up constructive criticism with employees when there is room to improve. The hard part here is that there is always room to improve. Don't forget to spend time rewarding employees with positive feedback once in a while. Employees are more likely to push themselves to succeed if they can recognize their own value as a member of the team. Employees who feel connected to their team will be less likely to ghost out of respect for said team. 


What Should You Do If An Employee Ghosts You?

First and foremost, if your employee has not shown up for work, give them a call. Try and use all methods of communication at your disposal in order to contact them. This may seem obvious, but it could be any number of reasons for their absence. It's likely they will answer, apologize, and ultimately explain the reason. Should they miss a second day or are unable to be contacted, then you may wish to reach out to their emergency contact.

It is important that you firstly focus on the employee’s well being. Notifying their emergency contact is a way to let their contact know they have missed work and you are concerned for their well being. Other team members will also appreciate the concern for the employees well being above all else. 

If you are unable to reach them after trying their emergency contact, and they continue to miss work, it is probably a sign that they are not planning to return. In this case it would be prudent to send a formal letter documenting the employees absence to the address on file. In the case that they have undergone a medical emergency or dealt with another serious incident, they may be protected under paid sick leave policy, paid family leave, or other covered policies. 

Feign from officially hiring a new employee, opting for a temporary employee instead. If after the time specified in the letter elapses, you have still heard nothing from the employee, then all you can assume is that you have chosen to resign. Be sure you consider all legal obligations and cover all bases when beginning the termination process. Once you have covered all legal obligations you can begin to hire a full replacement. 

Remember to remain compliant above all else. Should you get ghosted by an employee despite all of your efforts, be sure you follow procedure and remain patient. It can be a tedious process to formulate the correct path in order to resolve the issue at hand. There are issues of workload redistribution, bringing on new employees, and even potential legal measures that need to be addressed. So follow the above guidelines and take time in discerning where to go next.

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