There are professional ways to end a relationship, and silent indifference is not one of them.
I was amused (appalled?) yesterday by a trend on LinkedIn that noted how the supply/demand balance had shifted so much in talent markets that people are resorting to “ghosting” at work.
Ghosting, a dating term that means ending a relationship by suddenly and without notice ending all communications, manifests itself in the workplace by people quitting without giving notice, or not showing up on their scheduled first day of work, or no-showing for interviews. And it’s certainly a direct reflection on any candidate’s professionalism when they stop communicating or simply don’t show up.
Which brings to mind a thought for those of us in the professional realm: Ghosting is never the right way to end things. No matter how busy you are, how important you are, or how indifferent you are to the other person or company, it’s always professional to invest a moment of your time in achieving closure.
I spend a portion of my time, as does anyone with a firm like mine, developing relationships and ideas for service; I usually do this alongside a very busy executive who has a need for help. The process of developing ideas and investing in new relationships is a significant investment of time and mind share, but it’s part of the trade. In the years I have been doing this, four instances of ghosting stand out; these are the executives who go through the motions of scoping and idea generation, solicit a proposal, and then drop off the face of the earth. They are the cultivators of free information and free options for service. It bears saying that I am not referring to lost proposals: You win some and you lose some. I am referring to proposals that have gone into a black hole, never to be acknowledged as residing in this universe.
Invariably, the ghosting executives wonder why people don’t enjoy working with them. And, when there is some future outreach, there is always the “I was so busy” trope. This usually comes from a busy executive who doesn’t stop to think that perhaps those around him who are responding to his requests are equally busy. That excuse is chuckle-worthy.
Now, I must say that I write this as someone who values closure. I especially value it when there has been mutual investment around a topic–no matter the context. I once sat through a lunch discussion with the most dishonest person I ever met after a being a part of a series of negotiations with her; and I did it just to close things out–I can still taste the bile from that one. Yeah, I’d say I enjoy closing the book…ending the discussion…getting to “yes” or “no” as the case may be.
So, why the moment on ghosting? Because life is longer than we like to admit. You’re too busy to say “no” to that proposal, or to politely decline that next phone call, or to ensure that you have cancelled your attendance at that next interview? Just remember that lapses in professionalism have a nasty habit of coming home to roost, and lapses that result in wasted time and lost value are among the worst. Ghosting may, in fact, be the most unforgivable professional sin.
What do you think? Have you been ghosted in a professional setting?