‘Ghosting' in the Workplace Is The New Toxic Behavior, Experts Say

Once reserved for dating, ghosting has now extended to the professional environment

It's something that many people who participate in online dating have experienced: you go on a date or two with someone, try to reach out to them after and never hear from them again.

'Ghosting' was once reserved for romantic relationships: the person essentially becomes a ghost. But now the term can be applied to the workplace. 

It happens when a potential employee accepts a job position, then never contacts the employer again. It can also happen when an employee is supposed to show up for his first day of work and never does.

"We've experienced professional ghosting in terms of an offer being put on the table and the candidate essentially disappearing," said Markala Comfort who works in marketing and human resources for M.W. Steele Group Architecture and Planning in Barrio Logan. 

She said even though it's business, it is hard not to take it personally after weeks or even months of getting to know the person during the hiring process. 

"You wonder, 'Was it something I said or did?'" she added. "You just can't help but take it personally." 

In fact, Comfort said her firm has changed their recruiting process to avoid potential ghosting from candidates. 

"We have more touch points now with all of our applicants, more interviews," said Comfort. "We do more vetting with references." 

Experts said workplace ghosting is mostly due to the interviewee accepting multiple job offers and choosing the other company. 

"Job seekers have so many opportunities that no one employer is particularly significant to them," said Dr. Jay Finkelman, a business psychology professor and chair at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. "They just don't feel the need to keep people in their pipeline."

Dr. Finkelman said this mirrors the casual dating environment brought about by apps and social media.

"Potential employees are acting in much the same way as dating behavior when you feel you have so many options you don't have to worry about someone who is interested," said Dr. Finkelman. 

He added employers can combat this problem by keeping communication open and getting psychological commitment and verbal cues from the applicant up until the first day of work. 

There are a few different categories of workplace ghosting, according to experts. They all come down to a lack of communication on one end. 

Employees can also ghost each other at the office: A colleague or friend at work who suddenly decides not to talk to or acknowledge the coworker anymore. Typical conversations about the weekend in the hallway ceased to exist and communication stops altogether. 

Dr. Finkelman added part of open communication means that bosses should be asking employees on a regular basis what would make him or her the most comfortable in the job. 

Contact Us