The Phenomena of Professional Ghosting…

professional ghosting

What is it?

We are all familiar with the phrase ‘ghosting’ when it comes to dating – where one person simply drops off the face of the earth without reason, after a period of talking/communication. Ghosting normally happens abruptly, rather than fizzles out slowly, and a 2018 study found that 25% of people have experienced it when romantically involved with someone.

It’s a hugely infuriating and often disappointing thing to happen, particularly if you don’t know why. It has often left people feeling less confident, and they never get closure as to why the person decided to drop them so quickly, without explanation.

Most often than not, ghosting is done as a cowardly way out of something. Whether they had changed their mind, got cold feet or simply didn’t want to continue on anymore, instead of letting someone down gently and being upfront, it’s the ‘easy way out.’ 

So when is ghosting done in a professional environment?

You’ll be surprised but it happens A LOT in all areas of business. Two areas it is most commonplace are in the recruitment and pitching processes. 

But they are not alone! Professional ghosting has happened in all areas of business, including new business, side projects, charity work, speaker opportunities and much more. But there is a huge difference between professional ghosting and ghosting in the dating world – in particular, that you can be found easily online and held accountable for your ghosting! Whether this is in the form of having your reputation sullied or being called out publicly, ghosting isn’t good for integrity or for your business credentials. 

What to do if you’ve been ghosted

  • The first thing to do is to wait one minute… don’t go jumping the gun. 

Before you’re sure you’ve been ghosted, give it a little bit of time. Particularly when it comes to business. In most cases there will be deliberation, processes to undergo and hoops to jump through. Sometimes this can be slow, and patience may be what is needed. When it comes to waiting to hear back from a job you’ve applied for, for example, this process can sometimes take months. The same goes for businesses that you’ve just pitched to, they may have a shortlist to work from and budgets to get approved. And let’s face it, sometimes you’re not a top priority and may be somewhere further down on their do to list.

  • As much as you want to, try to avoid checking in too often…

Badgering someone can make their decision process longer, may irritate them and may come across as a little bit too much. It’s amazing that you’re eager, and if you are worried about being ghosted, it might be time to set a period of time you’re happy to wait for, before moving onto the next follow up steps. Set this internal deadline in your calendar and make sure it’s a suitable one.

  • Once your deadline is up and it’s time to follow up with them…

Do so in a way that isn’t inflammatory. There is no need to accuse them of ghosting you, and it should be done in a polite and caring manner. They may come back to you apologising profusely for the delay, or they may confide in you about issues they’re currently having that are holding things up. Either way, trying a different way of communicating with them may get you an answer. Even if it’s not the one you wanted.

  • Set your professional boundaries

We’re in no way saying that you should allow someone to mess you around. It doesn’t matter if this is a paid-for project/business deal, or a not-for-profit side hustle/project, there should be a degree of professionalism from both parties. If they don’t want to continue or have changed their mind, they should let you know, so that you know where you stand and you know when to move on. In a business pitch situation, you should be given the opportunity to hear why you weren’t selected to help you with future pitches. If you feel as though you are in ghosted territory, get in touch with a follow-up, say you haven’t heard from them in a while and explain your worries. If you don’t get a reply from that in a few weeks…

  • It’s time for the final email

Yep, it’s never nice to have to call someone out but if it’s now at a point where they’ve obviously tried to ghost you and have no intention of coming back to you – it’s time to write the final email. It should remain polite and professional but it should also be clear and concise in terms of your intentions… that you’re pulling out, withdrawing and that you won’t be getting in touch about the matter again. 

Once that email has been sent it’s important to take it on the chin and move on. It’s happening to everyone and it mostly isn’t personal. There are many reasons that you can be professionally ghosted and it usually comes down to laziness, cowardliness, a misunderstanding or other. It’s not something for you to worry about if you’ve taken the appropriate steps to try and communicate effectively. It’s not a reflection on you.

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