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Ghosting Workers Are Scaring Employers

Posted By: John Sweney on October 26, 2018

Brookwoods Group CEO John Sweney wrote a Halloween-themed article for the Houston Business Journal which appeared in the print edition October 26! Thanks to Mark Hayden of Breakfast at 12 agency for coordinating. (Click on the image to read the article as published.)

Ghosting Workers Are Scaring Employers. Here’s What You Can Do. 

Have you heard of ghosting? In the context of dating, this is when two people are in a relationship— be it casual or more serious—and one of them just stops communicating. No texts, no chats, no calls … nothing. (Insert sound of crickets.) Relationship over.

But now ghosting has arrived at the workplace. Some employees just stop showing up. No emails, no phone calls and no texts, leaving the company scratching their heads.

Welcome to the new workforce.

Employees of all ages are ghosting, but experts say that younger workers are more likely to do it. Perhaps our countless communications channels, including texting and chatting, are making us all worse communicators, not better. These technologies now allow people to completely avoid uncomfortable exchanges so they just stop communicating. Or worse, they just disappear.

But there are a few things you can do to create a workplace environment that fosters great communication and discourages ghost-like behavior:

  1. Intensify the vetting process. People who tend to ghost may have done it before. Call their former employers and references; even if they cannot speak frankly, what they do not say and how they say it can speak volumes. Also, a standard personality test can help pinpoint weaknesses in interpersonal skills and willingness to take on responsibility.
  2. Improve the onboarding process. A poor onboarding process can leave a horrible first impression and make new employees feel abandoned to the point they just give up.
  3. Communicate better. Poor internal communication leaves all workers feeling isolated and detached. If they see people being laid off or fired and there’s no dialog with the remaining team, they may think that the company is falling apart, so they just find another job. Good communication about their valuable role in executing the company’s mission, vision and values can go a long way to reinforcing trust and keeping them engaged. Walk around the office and ask open-ended questions.
  4. Try before you buy. Try hiring a contract employee vetted by a third party that has a dependable reputation. This allows both of you to try out the relationship with little risk on either side.  We have one large company client that has hired dozens of our contract professionals over the last 20 years, most of them after at least a year working on site to demonstrate their value.
  5. Let them know it’s okay to leave. Sometimes it’s not a good fit. The employee may have legitimate issues that can’t be worked through. Stress the importance of keeping the relationship positive and the value of not burning bridges. Ask them to make sure they give proper notice so that you can find their replacement.

It’s a mystery why anyone would risk their good name by not showing up for work and failing to give notice. But these simple hints can go a long way to helping you steer clear of these here-today-gone-tomorrow employees.

Let’s help “ghosting” remain a Halloween pastime, and not become common in the workplace!