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A LinkedIn Report Says Employee Ghosting Is on the Rise. Here’s What Leaders Can Do About It

If employers want workers to stop ghosting them, they should treat job candidates with respect.

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BY Peter Cohan - 06 Jan 2019

how to stop employee ghosting

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Have you ever decided you've had it with a relationship? If so, you probably know what ghosting is all about -- you cut off all communications with someone who keeps trying to reach you -- hoping that they will eventually give up and go away.

Ghosting has long been a "thing" with people on social media. But now it's migrated to the workplace -- what LinkedIn dubs "ghosting at work."

People schedule interviews and don't show up; they make it through the interview process get a job offer and ghost them; and they say they've accepted the offer and never show up at work and refuse to respond to the company's follow up.

But that's not all. People who have worked at a company for a while just stop showing up to work. They get emails, letters, and calls from their manager and peers and they fail to respond. Eventually the employer has to terminate the employee.

The practice has become so rampant that it even found its way into the Federal Reserve Bank's latest report on the state of the U.S. economy.

As Quartz wrote December 13, the Fed's Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions by Federal Reserve District, noted "A number of contacts said that they had been 'ghosted,' a situation in which a worker stops coming to work without notice and then is impossible to contact."

I wonder where employees got the idea that ghosting their companies was a good idea. Obviously, it's something younger workers are used to from their dating lives. But decades before Facebook, it was widely practiced by employers.

For example, the last time I was looking for a job -- many decades ago, I would mail resumes to companies, call to set up an interview, and never get a response. Companies did not even bother to send out rejection letters.

What's more, if I did get an interview, I would call to learn about next steps. And the company would ignore my messages until I got the message that I was not worth an iota more of their time.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that the player with the upper hand is the one who is in greater demand than the available supply. When the unemployment rate is above, say, 4% the employer is doing the ghosting of job candidates. And when the unemployment rate drops below 4 percent, employees ghost companies.

Last time employees were ghosting employers was in 1999 and early 2000 --right before the dot-com bubble burst. And I think the latest bubble started bursting in October and will continue to get worse in 2019.

That means that workers who are ghosting companies today will probably pay a price in 2019 as the job market starts to look much less rosy than it does now.

Nevertheless, I think employers are supposed to be the grownups here and I think they should take action to make talent want to work in their companies so they won't get ghosted by their people.

How so? Here are two things employers should do to help ghost-proof their employee base.

1. Create a growth-friendly culture.

Culture flows from what the CEO values. And if the CEO has growth-friendly values, such as respecting talent, delivering competitor-beating value to customers, and innovation, the company will grow.

Lowell, Mass.-based workforce management software provider, Kronos, was picked by the Boston Globe as its 2018 best place to work. Its CEO, Aron Ain, visited my Babson College class in November and he clearly conveyed through its words and deeds that it respects its employees.

As one of my students said, "It was compelling to hear from a CEO of a company as large as Kronos who is so invested in his company culture. I am compelled by his trust in his employees. It's a very respectful style of management, and I would be honored to work there."

2. Make family a top priority.

Most companies expect people to give up family time to meet corporate goals.

So, it was jarring to hear Ain talk about how he wants his people to make their family, not Kronos, their top priority. One of my students said, "I really appreciated [Ain's] advice about not losing sight of what is important to us outside of work. It was very refreshing to hear [his] perspective on the value of having passions and meaningful relationships outside of work."

Since my students are of the age where they are both familiar with ghosting and about to enter the workforce, their reactions bode well for Kronos and companies that can follow its lead.

If these tips don't ghost-proof your company, the next recession will.

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