Ghosting – who’s to blame?

Business 14th August 2019

An employee leaves you in the lurch – is it time to look in the mirror?

Ghosting – a definition – “the practice of ending a relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.”

‘Ghosting’ used to be solely associated with the world of dating.  One party, without warning, goes silent on the other.  No phone calls, texts or emails – not a word of explanation.  Psychologists claim this is a characteristic of tech-driven millennials.  They point to today’s ‘swipe-left’ approach to romance.  It’s like leaving a party without saying your goodbyes, sometimes known as an ‘Irish goodbye’ or a ‘French exit.

Disruptive, upsetting, costly

This disappearing act seems recently to have infected the workplace.  Workers inexplicably leaving their employment without giving notice has become increasingly widespread.  Ghosting often takes place before employment has even begun –

• failing to turn up for an interview

• not responding to a job offer

• failing to turn up for their first day at work

Has ghosting happened in your business? If so, you’ll know how disruptive, upsetting and costly it can be.  But whose fault is it?  Is it simply a manifestation of the ‘fecklessness and crass manners of millennials’?  Or should we lay the blame partly at our own door?  Is ghosting a reflection of an uncaring attitude on our part?

The wider view

Clearly, if one of your people leaves without giving notice, this is unsatisfactory from so many points of view. It’s disruptive and ill-mannered. Only under extreme circumstances, such as workplace abuse or bullying, there’s no good reason for this kind of disappearing act (even then, the victim should, if at all possible, follow proper procedures).

But before issuing a blanket condemnation, let’s explore the issue more widely.  Does an explanation lie in changes in social behaviour?

Young people know that their generation is growing up generally less prosperous than the previous one.  They often find themselves weighed down by greater employment uncertainty, negligible wage growth, the burden of debt and an increasingly out-of-reach housing market.

People’s view of employers might also be clouded by the ethos of the ‘gig economy’.  This sector offers negligible employment rights or job security, low wages and few prospects for career progression.

Could it be that these factors are a cause (though not an excuse) for young people’s diminishing respect, trust and loyalty towards employers?

Look in the mirror

So, what can you, as an employer, do to ensure that your chances of being ghosted are reduced to a minimum?  Perhaps a review of your business ethos is in order?  It’s that old adage – treat others as you wish to be treated.  Be sure that your business affords its people the same levels of respect and care with you’d like to be treated yourself.

Communication is a typical area where relationships break down.  Do your employees have a clear understanding of their roles, their responsibilities and their rewards?

It’s the not knowing that hurts

Following the interview process – do you feedback promptly and courteously?   You might think it an exaggeration, but to be left hanging, ignored, can cause lasting psychological damage to a candidate.  The brain processes rejection and loss of social status like a bodily injury.  It can leave permanent scars.



Here to help

Make sure your business minimises the chances of being ‘ghosted’.  Keep everyone onside with a clear, fair and considerate working ethos. As employment specialists, we’re here to support you in every aspect of people management.

For straight-talking advice, call us – 01604 763494

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