Recently businesses have seen an increase in situations where they are offering someone a job and then the new hire never show up. Or perhaps they have someone who works there and one day the employee just stops arriving with no notification in advance. In the dating world when this happens the term is “being ghosted.” You go out on a date with someone, think it went great, message or call the other person, and they never respond to you. We’ve all experienced this (and maybe have even done it to others). And now, businesses are finding themselves being ghosted and are wondering why.
Thanks to the current low unemployment rate, the advantage has turned to employees in the job market. People can stress less about having a job and have more opportunity to move from one company to another in exchange for more pay or better benefits. But there is more to it than just a good job market.
A New Generation
The first argument someone might use is that this is a generational thing, that millennials (born between 1980–1994) don’t have any respect for employers as they have never had to deal with a bad job market, thanks the economy being on the rise since the end of the last recession in 2009. A 2015 survey of over one thousand millennials found that when it comes to quality of work millennials rate highly. Yet regarding longevity in a business, millennials don’t stay as long, “fewer than three years” compared to previous generations that expect to stay at a job from five to seven years. As reported on CNBC, 43% of Gen Z employees (born between 1995–2015) have accepted an offer, then bailed.
On the surface it would be easy to say that the younger generations are not reliable, but keep in mind the work being performed by each generation. Generation X (1965–1979) have been in the workforce for several years and are at the age when the jobs being offered (in general) are higher skilled and higher paying jobs. The Gen Z employees are starting out in the workforce and being offered the lower skilled, lower wage job — jobs that in general have a high turnover rate such as food service and retail. I know of many applicants older than I am who have ghosted a job, just because that is the easy solution, and they fall into that age group that should know better. The issue with ghosting can’t be solely attributed to the age group a person was born into.
Is There More to It Than Age?
Within the first few days of working for a large software company (Company X), one of my peers who was hired at the same time received another job offer (Company Y). He had of course been applying and interviewing for other jobs too, as most people in the job market do — we don’t just apply to one place and then do nothing else while waiting on the first to get back to us. Company Y made him a much better offer. So, even though he had accepted Company X first, he preferred to take the job at Company Y. As he was relaying his situation to me; he was not looking forward to informing his manager at Company X, but he did anyway. When he did, the manager was not happy, told him they had hired him over others, that he made a commitment to them, etcetera. The manager tried to shame and guilt him into staying. But as a business owner, would you really want someone to work for you who was only there out of guilt? I wouldn’t. I would want people to be there because they want to be there. The manager even went as far as saying, “don’t ever apply to work here again.” Conversations like that likely play a part in employees deciding to just not show up for the first day of a job rather than be honest. If business owners want people to treat them with respect, they need to treat people with respect as well.
In my life, I have conducted a lot of interviews for both large and small businesses and have seen the flip-side of how businesses treat applicants. Human Resources managers and hiring managers have a difficult job in weeding out applicants in search of the right person for a role. But it would amaze you to hear the behind-the-scenes discussions when reviewing resumes (or CV) and reasons why some quality applicants are not called in for an interview or hired. For example, I know one manager who worked for a software company. He told me once he would not bring a person in for an interview if the email address at the top of the resume had a competitor’s domain on it. Statements like this showcase the lack of respect some employers have for prospective applicants.
It Is Still Difficult for Job Applicants Even in Today’s Market
As an applicant in the workforce I can attest to how frustrating it is to customize a cover letter and resume for a job, to submit an application and never hear back. Not even a generic email reply. Or worse — going into an actual interview and not receiving feedback. Businesses have been Ghosting applicants for years.
A few months ago, I did a phone screen for a company in London. It was a large tech company and a role I could easily have filled, and after the phone screen I was led to believe that they would call me for an in-person interview. Days went past, and I heard nothing, not even a “they decided not to move forward with you.” When I emailed the recruiter and asked for an update, his response was that the person I interviewed with felt that I “haven’t lived in the UK before, so you may need to research the British education system for the role.” Based on that unrelated-to-the-job and xenophobic response, do you see how I would not feel any obligation to treat the company that would hire a person like that with any respect? Imagine if you are someone this happens to repeatedly and how easily that could change the way you might treat this business or businesses like it.
Anyone who has spent any amount of time looking for work has experienced situations of a recruiter or employer stating they will contact them and then hearing nothing. Or contacting an employer or recruiter and never hearing back, not even a thanks for contacting us, but we aren’t interested. The argument for this was and still is, “because of the large number of applicants we can’t respond to everyone,” as an excuse to justify ghosting applicants. Is the applicant pool really that large in an economy with 3.5% unemployment rate in the US at the moment, and 3.8% in the UK? Or, is it really that difficult to implement an automated system that simply replies, “Thank you but we’ve decided to move forward with another candidate.” Especially in situations where the applicant has gone through a phone screen or interview.
Why Are Employees Now Ghosting Companies?
There will not be one easy answer of why employees are ghosting businesses, as different people have different reasons for doing things. Is it age related, a growing disrespect for others, or perhaps a bit of payback for so many years of company’s treatment of those who work for the business? People who entered the workforce during the great recession often had to take low-paying jobs or jobs they didn’t like, just for the sake of having work. Employers could cut salaries and benefits and if the employee didn’t like it, they were laid off, fired, or the job was made unbearable forcing them to quit.
The saying goes, “karma is a bitch” and yes sometimes it is. But there is also something to be said for another saying, “you reap what you sow.” And businesses now are starting to see the returns on investment in how they have been treating employees — not as people, but as cattle to be easily replaced. Now it seems that if people can be replaced like cattle, so can the ranch the cattle are on.
Ghosting — the New Normal?
Is ghosting something we should just start accepting as a fact of life in business? Unfortunately, it probably is. Personally, I am fully against it. I believe that if you get a job, you should honor that commitment, and that if you get another job, you should notify your employer with appropriate notice. Any new company you work for will accept that you need to give your old employer two weeks’ standard notice. I know the fear and stress at having those conversations about leaving a job are something we want to avoid, but trust me, after having been on both ends of the conversation, employers are generally okay with people quitting. Just let them know and give them an opportunity to provide a counteroffer. A study by Robert Half found that one reason people are ghosting new employers is that when giving notice with their current employer, the current employer is providing a counteroffer that they accept.
As for giving notice to your current employer — the conversation might be a benefit for you. And as for the prospective employment you may have decided not to take — even if you can’t handle the face-to-face conversation, an email is easy to send. Think about it from their point of view where they would have training scheduled and time in their day dedicated to you. If you send them an email, they might be disappointed but at least they can reschedule the day versus calling and trying to figure out where you are.
Also, to the employers out there, maybe if you treat your people better, they will treat you better in return. Conversations are a two-way street, yet anyone who has ever worked in a hierarchy knows it starts at the top and works its way down. When hiring managers and recruiters start treating applicants as human beings, those humans might treat the businesses as places run by people and not corporate entities to be disrespected.