Way back in 2016, LinkedIn published a great article on what had become many companies’ newest nightmare known as ‘employee ghosting’ 👻.
“In fields ranging from food service to finance, recruiters and hiring managers say a tightening job market and a sustained labour shortage have contributed to a surge in professionals abruptly cutting off contact and turning silent–the type of behaviour more often associated with online dating than office life.” – Linkedin Spokesperson.
Unfortunately, employee ghosting wasn’t just a phase (or something that can only be found on dating apps), it’s still an ongoing issue Many employees feel no need to have an awkward conversation with a recruiter or manager if they can instead take the easy way out and ghost them. There are even companies that brand themselves as ‘quitting services’ and for a small fee will call your boss on your behalf to formally resign.
Employee ghosting is essential to consider when a potential candidate or new employee can now just disappear, and it can happen at any stage in the job cycle. This could be a job candidate who agrees to an interview but then never shows up. They may go so far as to accept a job, yet never appear for the first day of work. It can even be as extreme as current employees who simply leave and never return, no formal resignation, no explanation given. Nothing.
Was it something you said?
We doubt it was something your business actually did. But it raises a good question, why does it happen? 🤔 It’s a complex thing but the truth is, employee ghosting has multiple contributing factors.
- The unemployment rate is lower than it has been in almost two decades across many countries. In Australia, we’ve been holding steady at an unemployment rate of 5.2% in 2019. But with more open jobs than unemployed people, candidates have a newfound advantage. If they don’t like a job situation, or if they find something better during the recruitment or employment process, it’s easier than ever to just go and pick another company.
- The effects technology has on the communication style of the younger generation is another factor. Social media and messaging apps help people establish relationships quicker, but a lack of face-to-face communication and personal contact often create relationships that lack depth. Therefore, employees don’t feel guilty for leaving businesses’ high and dry.
- Are employers just getting a taste of their own medicine? In the same article from Linkedin one of their spokespersons controversially stated that this could just be a cycle of power between employers and employees.
“Let’s remember that employers ghost their employees all the time. Have you ever worked at a company where management decided to lay off 30 percent of the workforce so they could hit the numbers to earn their bonuses? Employees find out on Friday afternoon that they won’t be allowed inside the building on Monday morning… Employment is a brutal arrangement in which employees can quit at any time for any reason and employers can fire employees at any time for any reason. Hate the game, not the players.”
This harsh interpretation can be left up to your own discretion but leads to an interesting debate as to whether this is just part of an on-going cycle. Do employees currently have the upper hand?
What do I do if it happens to my business?
If you have a candidate ghost you, don’t panic! We’ve put together an action plan to help you work out exactly what happened.
Step 1. Think about whether you know of any sickness or out-of-work issues that could help explain the employee’s behaviour. It could just have been an emergency situation that stopped them from showing up and letting you know.
Once you’ve done a brief background check, try to get in touch with the employee over the phone. If they don’t answer, leave a voicemail and send them a follow-up email to let them know you called.
Step 2. If you’ve tried calling and still can’t reach them, send them a letter to check in with them. In this letter, make sure you let them know that they‘re currently classed as absent without leave and that they need to contact you within the next 48 hours. If they don’t this will be classed as gross misconduct and you will need to take further action.
Step 3. So, you’ve rang, you’ve emailed, you’ve sent a formal letter and you’re still being ghosted? If you still haven’t heard from the employee after step 1 and 2, then you should invite them to a disciplinary meeting at your office for unauthorised absence, failure to get in touch and failure to follow sickness absence procedures.
Remember though, they still have all the normal disciplinary rights as a current employee, even if they are ghosting you. You have to treat this case as you would any other.
Step 4. If the employee fails to show up for the disciplinary meeting and they’ve only been with you for a short time, providing you warned them that the meeting could result in their dismissal in their absence, you can dismiss them. As long as you’ve made it clear throughout the entire process that this will be the end result.
PSA: If you want more information about the correct employee termination procedure, here you go!
Step 5. If it’s a long-term employee and they don’t show up then you should invite them to another disciplinary meeting. If they don’t show up again and you warned them that the meeting could result in their dismissal in their absence – providing there are no mitigating circumstances, like illness – you should dismiss them.
How to prevent a future ghosting
Now you’ve dealt with that particular case, how can you stop it from happening again? Here are some of our ghosting prevention tips that might just save your business.
Emotional intelligence can help you deal with prevention of ghosting in the workplace, it will help you relate to the employee as well as help you make a more holistic decision rather than letting your personal emotions drive your choice of action.
Remember that respect gets respect in return. When companies and recruiters treat people like people, and not like commodities or another number on their payroll, they can create an environment where people are more likely to respond in kindness to the business itself. Respect every candidate and employees new and old with respect and they will return the gesture.
Work hard to maintain consistent and honest communication in the workplace with the people you’re dealing with. Don’t mislead them with false promises or unrealistic hopes. In other words, keep it real and always be transparent.
Cut your losses.
You’ve had your first employee ghosting, so what? Like it or not, ghosting has become the new normal so don’t dwell on it. It can happen to the best of companies and all you can do is learn to adapt and grow from it. If you noticed a drastic increase, then you can start to consider streamlining onboarding procedures to get new employees up and running within the business more quickly or investigate deeper into why so many people are ghosting you.
Count your blessings.
Finally, remember that in many cases ghosting is a sign that things would have eventually ended badly with that particular employee. Maybe they just weren’t right for the business or that particular role. So, if you’re the victim of ghosting, count your blessings, move on, and endeavour to find a better employee the next time around. Don’t take it personally! If you need a little help, here’s a handy guide to making sure your next candidate is the right person to hire.
The Wrap Up on Employee Ghosting
Employee ghosting happens everywhere, in all businesses but with the right tools you can learn from this experience. Make your hiring experience better than ever, and make sure your company culture is one that no one would want to miss out on.
Want a little extra advice on knowing what employees really want from their employees? Help create the perfect world at work for your business with our whitepaper on employee expectations.