Employers: The ghost in the machine


Ghosting as a term originated in the world of dating and specifically online dating where people might be more likely to hedge their bets and be communicating online with several potential suitors before making their romantic choice.


In the early stages of online getting-to-know-one-another technology acts as both a facilitator to communications and a barrier. It is the same dynamic that people feel gives them permission to behave badly whilst driving even though they would be less likely to ever behave in the same way in face to face situations.

When you are ghosted you are unceremoniously dropped and usually blocked from all previous ways of communicating. This happens without warning in most cases and without recourse to an explanation and that can feel extremely distressing and confusing.

Ghosting is now showing up in the workplace too as increasing numbers of job candidates suddenly block all communications with their potential employer during the latter stages of negotiation.

In India, for instance, a prime example of where talent is in the ascendency and skilled candidates are in demand about 35 per cent of potential hires end with the candidate ghosting themselves from the talent acquisition pipeline. That means that out of every 10 hires, about 3-4 people ghost their potential employer.

Workplace ghosting

In the workplace ghosting costs, money and time invested in a recruitment process ending in a disappearing act and how business is handling this provides some interesting strategies for the world of romantic dating too.

Business is having to recalibrate its approach to corporate formality by increasing the number of contact points in their recruitment process. Human resource experts are of the view that a mix of technology-led interventions and regular human interactions could be a solution.

The new approach means that the recruitment of a new employee from the acceptance letter onwards will take a more holistic approach and include reference to the softer aspects of the candidate’s life including profession of their spouse and permanent residence considerations among others. The will also use the past incidence of where ghosting happened in the recruitment process to implement a contact point to reinforce the connection.

It can take weeks, sometimes even months for a large corporation to put in place all the minutiae required before a start date can even be set, so it’s important to ensure the candidate is kept ‘warm’ and isn’t tempted by other offers. 

Checking in on voice calls is more effective to determine if a candidate is still interested in the job role. Any signs of weakening interest from a potential hire can hopefully be countered early by communicating and reinforcing the company’s commitment to the candidate.

Getting the candidate to come in for an informal meet up after the job offer has been made gives would be employers a chance to look at the body language as well as how enthusiastic a potential hire is and can provide an idea of whether they will ‘ghost’ the company. 

Reinforcing connection means that people behave better with each other making ghosting less of a problem.

Workplace ghosting also happens within internal communications and can cause an unsettling train of reactions for the person being ghosted and ignored. The emotions this may spark can follow an arc similar to that of grief beginning with feelings of shock and denial through to overwhelming sadness.

Initially, a person can feel confused and even doubt that they are being ghosted so keep making repeated and sometimes more intense efforts to contact the person. It’s not unusual for the ghosted person to feel excessive and increasing levels of anguish as the whole scenario of being sidelined keeps being played over and over in their mind.

Multiple platforms work against clear communication

The idea that multiple communication platforms in the workplace are an aid to improved communications has become the accepted wisdom of the day, but the reality is very different.
If you are reliant on multiple platforms, accept this is far from ideal and that you could encounter ghosting.

What the majority of these platforms have in common is that they are reductive from the optimum form of communication which is face to face, eye to eye, preferably in the same room. Anything else is a compromise and provides the connection gap that encourages people to behave disrespectfully.

This brings me neatly back to the world of dating where a connection is even more vital to minimise the distress of relationship ghosting.

A few guidelines can really make a difference to the quality of connection you have with a potential suitor or whether you are considered just another disposable candidate in the ‘talent acquisition pipeline’ to use the corporate parlance.

In all communication keep uses of tech platforms for minimal logistical information – What time and where are the ideal extent of these sorts of interactions. Nothing nuanced. Nothing that can be misunderstood.

Establish clear lines of expectation concerning a reply and feedback framework. Agree when to be in touch again as part of each communication. If this is in place, you’ll know quickly if the other person is reliable or not.

Convert from online communication to real life, eye to eye meeting preferably in the same room as soon as possible.

In love don’t waste time communing online. Most people will know in 125th of a second – the speed of a camera shutter – whether they like the look of someone romantically in the flesh or not.

Be pro-active and include as much structure as you can with your own communication but remember their absence of response says more about them than you.

And in your romantic life consider that anyone who ghosts you is not your soul make.

Are you struggling with your communications either at work or in your private life? Do failures of communication impact on you, or perhaps you feel you’re the cause of some of them? Reach out to book an obligation free call with me to explore your communication dynamics and find ways to transform how you can speak your truth and be properly heard.





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