Bad Girl, Good Business

Boo! The Rise of Ghosting

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Google “ghosting” and you’ll get 23 million results.

That’s truly frightening. Just in time for Halloween, I’m scaring-up this timely and disturbing topic. It goes on in the workplace and in relationships. It’s nothing new, but it’s on the rise.

I just wrote a post for a client about short-term employees — people who leave a job within 90 days, often without a trace. One day they just don’t show up. Poof!

NPR published a feature on ghosting in the workplace and attributed some of it to the hot labor market. Recruiters often ghost applicants. “Employment at-will” is commonplace in most employment agreements. So, some of it may be the “I’ll do it to you before you do it to me” mentality. HR websites are filled with tips for employers on how to deal with ghosts — people who disappear during the application process or simply don’t show up for work one day. (And yes…it happened to me.)

In relationships, it’s described by psychologists as a form of emotional cruelty. 

Regardless of the reasons why or where it’s just sort of rude and cowardly. One of the 23 million articles quoted a psychologist who said, “Our always-on culture has eroded a lot of empathy, which is why we find ourselves stepping on each others’ feelings.”

So, how do we exorcise our culture (or at least your own day-to-day llife)?

  1. If you have kids or mentor young professionals, teach them how to kindly and respectfully say “no.” My book for recent grads has a whole chapter on how to leave a job.
  2. Having trouble with a boss or client? Read Crucial Conversations and practice your “honesty with kindness and good timing” skills. One of my other great practical faves is Dealing With People You Can’t Stand.
  3. Try not to be wounded by the haunting. Don’t let it shake your trust in all people.
  4. If you find yourself being ghosted often, consider your own role in the vanishing act. Don’t blame yourself but think about what you might do differently. As Patty Stanger would say, “Your picker is off.”

And, as long as you’re studying up on your disappearing act vocab, here are two other words that have creepy-crawled their way into our lexicon:

Being “benched” is being back-burnered or sidelined without a legitimate explanation. Being “zombied” is when a person you haven’t spoken to in months or even years resurfaces in your life and acts as if no time has passed. If you’re going to come back from the dead, at least offer up a plausible explanation of where you’ve been (e.g., witness protection program, caring for an aging relative, or just taking time to reflect) and apologize for your absence.

So, as we head into the season of the ghoul — and 2020 — think about your own behavior and live with spirit — not as one.




One Comment

  1. Ghosting has become popular because people are too afraid to have those hard conversations. They think this is easier. Well it is for the person doing the ghosting. Not fot the people being ghosted. It’s completely selfish.


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