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An employee ghosting action plan

Worried about employees ghosting at work? Here's a step-by-step guide on how to deal with it, from job candidates to current employees.
Published 1 Sep 2022
Updated 8 Feb 2024
7min read
employee typing away on her laptop

Way back in 2016, LinkedIn published a great article on what had become many companies’ newest nightmare known as ’employee ghosting’ πŸ‘».

“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.

What does employee ghosting mean?

Employee ghosting is when a potential candidate or new employee just disappears with no notice, and it can happen at any stage in the job process.

For job candidates, candidate ghosting happens when job seekers agree to a job interview but then never show up. They may go so far as to accept a job offer yet never appear for the first day of work.

It can even be as extreme as current employees who simply leave and never return, with no formal resignation and no explanation given. Nothing.

Why does employee ghosting happen?

Many employees feel no need to have an awkward conversation with a recruiter or hiring 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.

Is it an issue with job seekers or hiring managers?

Are employers just getting a taste of their own medicine? In the same article on 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 ongoing cycle.

Do employees currently have the upper hand?

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How To Create a Standout Employee Experience

Common reasons for employee ghosting

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 that employee ghosting has multiple contributing factors.

Here are some of the most common reasons that contribute to the ghosting phenomenon.

More job opportunities in the market

The unemployment rate is lower than it has been in almost two decades across many countries. In Malaysia, unemployment rates are at 3.7% at present.

But with more open jobs than unemployed people, job candidates have a newfound advantage.

If they don’t like a job situation, or if they find something better during the recruitment process or during employment, it’s easier than ever to just go and pick another company.

Read more: Do you have flight risk employees?

Lack of emotional investment in the 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.

Want to improve work relationships? 1:1s are a great place to start.

What to do if employees ghost you at work

If you have an employee ghosting you, don’t panic!

We’ve put together an action plan to help you work out exactly what happened.

1. Check in with employee

Think about whether you know of any sickness or out-of-work issues that could help explain the employee’s no-shows. 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.

2. Send a formal notice

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 do this after you gave your notice, this will be classed as gross misconduct, and you will need to take further action.

If they do get back to you, consider the possibility of putting them in a performance improvement plan.

3. Set up a disciplinary meeting

So, you’ve rung, 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 steps 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.

4. Start the employee dismissal process

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 been giving notice and provided a clear it clear throughout the entire process that this will be the end result.

PSA: Learn more about the correct employee termination procedure here.

What about long-term employees?

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 employee ghosting in the workplace

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.

Be smart

Emotional intelligence can help you deal with the 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.

Be respectful

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 new hire and employee with respect and they will return the gesture.

Read more: Giving constructive feedback to employees

Be transparent

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.

Read more: Goal setting for company-wide visibility

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 happens to the best of companies, and all you can do is learn to adapt and grow from it.

If you noticed a drastic increase in turnover, then you can start to consider auditing your workforce and improve processes to get new hires up and running within the business more quickly, or investigate deeper into your employee experience and 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.

Remember not to 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.

Fine tune your hiring process

Even if you are able to hire top talent, it’s important for new hires to understand their new roles and be assured they are a good match for their potential employer.

As mentioned previously, a new hire that starts a job with false expectations may end up finding a way out quickly.

Be sure to check in with your human resource management team and double-check that your recruitment processes are well defined and that new hires are aware of their roles.

Some ways you can audit your recruitment process is by asking:

  • What does your recruitment process look like? Do you keep in touch regularly after the job offer?
  • Are candidates fully aware of their roles and expectations during the interview process?
  • Are new employees given guidance during the onboarding process?

Read more: How to optimise your workforce

Work on improving employee engagement

Engaged employees are less likely to ghost employers. To keep employees engaged beyond their first day, the work doesn’t end after the candidates accept the job offer.

Just like the dating world, employees who are committed to the working relationship will be more likely to reach out to their manager if they are experiencing any doubts.

Employers need to continuously work on improving the employee experience and overall employee engagement to keep their workforce happy at work.

Looking for a way to improve employee engagement and smash goals as a team? Check out our employee performance management software.

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. Download our workplace culture bundle today!

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