With unemployment rates sinking to record lows, ghosting employers is the hot new thing to do. There certainly is a satisfying feeling of justice that comes with this phenomenon. Those who do it however, are foolishly becoming the very problem they are standing against.
If you’re not familiar, “ghosting” is when someone in any kind of relationship goes dark. They fail to return any communication at all — no goodbye, no nothing. Within the context of a company, it’s when a job candidate, typically someone who has received an offer, simply stops returning communication. Existing employees can ghost their employer as well when they abruptly stop coming to work, refusing to return any communication. It’s becoming such a problem for employers it has caught the attention of Quartz and The Washington Post.
It makes sense why job candidates and employees might feel justified in ghosting employers. For years, potential job candidates have endured an unfair gauntlet called “the hiring process.” Through interviews, surveys, personality tests and even in-person meetings, hopeful candidates wait for a reply. Sadly, hearing absolutely nothing from the employer. Even after numerous follow up attempts. So it makes sense why ghosting employers looks like a positive trend.
There is a sense of justice when people who know what it feels like to be in that position, observe these abusive and perhaps downright evil corporate entities get what’s coming to them. But this overall trend is bad, not just for companies but for candidates as well.
Companies, led by HR people who ghost candidates are certainly in the wrong. Failure or neglect in returning candidates communication after they have spent their own free time is still a sleazy thing to do, but the sleazy HR people aren’t the only ones getting hurt. Ghosting employers is a bomb dropped into a densely populated area of other employees and truly good companies and the collateral damage must be considered.
Ghosting Employers Hurts Good Companies
The most obvious damage done is to good companies. Good companies unfairly lumped in with other bad actors. You might think you can tell the difference, and would never be complicit in ghosting employers who are good, but the data isn’t on your side.
Dan Ariely conducted an experiment on a college campus that utilized a broken vending machine that was rigged to return patrons money and still give them the candy they selected. A sign was placed with a phone number asking people to call if the machine was broken. No one did. Instead, people helped themselves to free candy. The study is too long to fully explain in this post, but it goes on to suggest people tend to justify decisions based on truly illogical previous experiences. Perhaps another vending machine ripped them off a few months ago, so their actions are justified.
With this window into human justification of actions, it’s likely people who ghost employers will hurt great companies and great HR people that truly care and cherish people’s time. And burned companies, tend to change what’s broken.
Ghosting Employers Makes Hiring Worse
Like in any problem, companies rush to find solutions that will benefit them, their shareholders, their employees, and their customers. It’s only natural. If a significant portion of the population wages war against this large “corporate system” the affected systems have to play defense. Great companies that historically trusted candidates may change their systems or increase their short interview cycles to longer ones for the purpose of weeding out bad actors.
After all, all these systems HR professionals currently use are there for a reason. In the same way, HR people are highly protective and non-trusting for fear of a lawsuit, they could also make it much harder for candidates to even talk to a real person in fear of their time being continually wasted. Ghosting employers and hiring companies may simply make things worse on the very candidates that are waging war to begin with. And this behavior could possibly have long-term implications for the individuals that get burned.
Ghosting Employers Hurts You
Outside of the obvious hit on your own personal reputation, after all, most people stick within an industry, ghosting employers will also change you, perhaps even causing you to repeat the cycle you hate so much.
Ghosting employers literally draws you down to bad HR people’s level — perhaps a new low. You literally become what you hate and this makes you more likely to repeat the pattern. You may continue to justify your actions as somehow a justified balance of poor treatment dished out to you over the years. After all, you had to pay your dues and were beaten down — Now it’s this next chumps turn. Sadly, the next time a candidate is treated like crap, the person on the other side may just be you.
Maintain your character and don’t stoop to a bad companies level. If you’re not interested in a job offer, simply tell the company you’ve interviewed for. If you want to leave a company due to poor treatment, tell them, be direct. In the chance that employers are simply unaware they are hurting people, ghosting will simply keep them in the dark about their behavior. But being direct? That’s the only thing that can change the hearts and minds of broken HR departments and you will leave with your character intact. Don’t become part of the problem.