Tag Archives: professionalnetworking

Ghost(ing) Story

In business, many of us spend hours networking. We seek out opportunities to connect with other people to expand our existing networks, or to meet people whose skills or custom we might be able to use down the track.

Interacting with others is a basic human need, and a skill we try to hone for business success. But imagine if you walked up to someone at an event and they turned their back, or walked away.

You wouldn’t physically ghost someone, would you?

And yet, increasingly I hear of, or see people reaching out to business connections via email or providing a proposal or a piece of value-add work and  … crickets. No ‘thank you.’ No ‘I’m flat out at the moment but I really will come back to you.’ No, nothing.

It’s the corporate version of ghosting. It’s rife, it’s accepted, and it goes mostly unchallenged.

Ghosting, as the name suggests, is when someone suddenly stops communicating with another person without any explanation. It’s a term that gained traction in popular lingo in the dating world.

Poof! They’re gone

You connect with someone online and then, poof, they’re gone. Their profile vanishes, and it’s as if they never existed.

It’s increasingly evident in the recruitment sector too. Post Covid, I’ve heard countless cases of people going for a job interview and waiting for the follow-up call from the recruiter.

They’re still waiting. Apparently, it’s not the norm these days to advise unsuccessful applicants that they can move on. They are left hanging, wondering if the position was filled or if they’re still in with a shot, or where they went wrong? It’s a guessing game.

Likewise, job candidates don’t show for interviews. Successful candidates don’t turn up for the first day. They vanish without a word.

The Harvard Business Review quoted a 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships: 25% of participants reported having been ghosted by a partner. When it comes to job seeking, 93% of respondents in a 2020 LinkedIn poll said they had been ghosted during an active hiring process.

It’s a problem and it’s only getting worse.

At its core, ghosting is a sign of disrespect for the time and effort others invest in reaching out to us.

Just say No!

So why do people ghost?

In the era of everyone wins a prize, there are no losers, could it be that people have forgotten how to say no? Is there a phobia around rejecting an approach from someone or turning down a proposal. Are people scared to have a difficult conversation? Do they think that ignoring the elephant in the room will make it go away?

Of course, it will go away (eventually) and with it goes your reputation (eventually). When a business turns cold and fails to acknowledge your proposal or your email or a piece of work you’ve done for them, their brand is devalued by the people they ignore. Word travels fast and no one wants to be known as unresponsive, or rude.

So, short of sending a copy of Debrett’s etiquette guide, what do you do if professionally ghosted? Walk away and chalk it up to bad manners, or call it out and keep prodding for a response?