“Ghosting:” The practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication. (Oxford Dictionaries)
My guess is a lot of us have done it and had it done to us. As a general rule, we associate ghosting with friend and dating relationships, but it happens in the business world too. You know the drill, no phone call, no e-mail, no text. Nothing, not even crickets.
“There are many psychological reasons why someone ghosts, but at its core, ghosting is avoidance and often stems from fear of conflict. Which means, at its heart, that ghosting is about wanting to avoid confrontation, avoid difficult conversations, avoid hurting someone’s feelings.” (HuffPost)
My guess is that ghosting in the business realm doesn’t look markedly different than in the dating realm where way back in 2015 Psychology Today estimated that approximately 50% of men and women had experienced, or done, ghosting.
Ramifications of ghosting in the business world:
- Presents as lack of caring (“I don’t need you anymore.”)
- Creates a one-sided relationship (“I’ll only be in touch if I need something from you.”)
- Leaves co-workers feeling disrespected (“I worked my tail off to finish that report and now nothing.”)
- May be interpreted as passive-aggressive behavior (“It must be bad news. He’s avoiding me.”)
- Does not allow co-workers any cues for reaction (ambiguity) (“Hmmmm, I scheduled a meeting to review my proposal and I’ve not heard a thing. Does she like it? Hate it? Do I need to redo it?”)
Thoughts on ghosting:
- If you’ve been ghosted, approach it from a level of curiosity. What else could be going on? Did the e-mail or text not get through? Did the recipient forget to turn on their “out of office” and they aren’t ignoring you, just not around? Have they had a family emergency?
- Give yourself permission to reach out “X” number of times (you decide), then let it go. If the relationship is that hard, do you want it anyway?
- Review the facts. Was there clear communication about a requested response? If not, it may not be ghosting, but more a disconnect on timelines.
- Ghosting says little-to-nothing about YOU, but more about the other person. Do not pin your self-worth on whether someone has ghosted you.
- “If you see something, say something.” The reasons for ghosting are not always clear but may be based on fear, not rejection. Do not fear confrontation; keep the lines of communication open, ask questions, be bold, be vulnerable.
Final thought: Ghosting is social rejection which activates the same pain pathways in the brain as physical pain. Ouch. When you have been ghosted and feel pain, it’s real, and possibly some pain medication like Tylenol will help take a bit of the sting way.
Additional resources noted at bottom of post.
Cindy Jobs, COC, ACC
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Level I Certificates earned in Chronic Disorganization; ADD; Client Administration; Time Management; Mental Health; and Hoarding.
Level II Specialist Certificates earned in Chronic Disorganization and ADHD.