Updated: Feb 12
As a millennial, I am well aware that my generation invented ghosting. We're sorry, and it can no longer be tolerated in professional interactions.
For anyone who doesn't know, ghosting is a term that was coined from the online and app dating scene to describe a phenomenon wherein you engage in a positive interaction with a person you are interested in and they just stop responding to your messages. Just. Stop. Responding. Similar phenomena include submarining (they pop up every once in a while), zombieing (they were dead to you, but they're back now), etc. There are subtle differences, but you get the idea. Personally, we've come to accept ghosting as an artifact of dealing with a large number of rude and thoughtless people. Professionally, though, ghosting is becoming more and more common, and it is unacceptable.
Here is an example: I was recommended for a job last year. I went through all the usual channels. Submit a resume, screener phone call, interview one, interview two, interview three. Finally, during my last interaction with the hiring manager, he said "I'll call you about next steps". I don't mind telling you, I wanted this job. It was a great opportunity. So I waited. The holidays came,
and nobody hires then, people are busy, I understand. I waited for two months. Finally, I sent an email over, checking on their progress. The hiring manager's response was "Oh! I thought someone told you. We've already hired someone else".
The result of ghosting, wherever it takes place, is universally self-doubt. What did I do wrong? Was I qualified? Was I personable? Was I professional? Was I wearing the right outfit for the culture of the organization? Yes! Yes, I was qualified. Yes, I was personable. Yes, I was professional. The outfit was fine. And if I wasn't a good fit, that is completely fine, too. All that was missing was an email saying that. (Sidebar, I sent a response saying that I was disappointed to not be considered, but I would appreciate meeting for a coffee sometime so I could get some feedback. No response.)
We are busy people. We're all busy. Things fall through the cracks, and I get that. I'll be the first to acknowledge that I have ghosted people with aggressive sales tactics. But on my honor, I try to close out the interaction. "I'm not interested at this time" or "I'm not in a position" or "No thank you" is all it takes. Ghosting is the digital version of hanging up on someone, and I doubt anyone is going to make a case for hanging up on people.
So let's get back to good ole' fashioned manners. Ghosting is easy, but do the grown-up thing and end it. You'll feel better and I promise they will too.
Have you ever been professionally ghosted?
**Erika Weed is a doctoral candidate at The George Washington University, studying leadership and trying to reconcile the seemingly competing goals of happiness and success, for herself and others.