Ghosting in the workplace

toa-heftiba-148636-unsplashWhen I first heard the term ghosting, I related it to ghosts in a haunted house or scary events at Halloween or heaven forbid, I got lost in a field on the way home and was at the mercy of some supernatural being. However, on researching this term in greater depth, I found it also relates to a tactic of avoidance in the dating game and in the workplace. My interest, of course, focused on the workplace, and I found some very interesting information, so, keep reading…

Ghosting in the workplace is very similar to giving someone the cold shoulder or avoiding them completely in a romantic relationship – except at work it applies to the boss or company for whom you work. Like the technique of avoidance in the courting game, where the one ghosted in the relationship may feel shafted or dumped, ghosting at work implies a similar situation: an employee snubs his employer either through avoidance or quitting completely. In dating, a person who is dumped feels lost and very reluctant to date someone else. In the workplace, an employee who ghosts the company or boss often leaves them mystified and powerless to do anything, especially if the employee quits suddenly and doesn’t return to work (Leary, M.R., Haupt, A.L., Strausser, K.S., Chokel JT, 1998) .

The question why employees ghost in the workplace is one that has baffled employers everywhere, but one reason for this phenomenon is that the unemployment rate in the US is very low now, jobs are plentiful, and skilled labor is hard to find. So, if an employee gets a good job opportunity, he or she quits their previous job before joining a better place of employment and only informs the employer on the day they leave, which leads to an awkward situation for the employer or management. Ghosting can also be the result of dissatisfaction with a boss or company’s behavior and their attitude towards the employee. Formerly, it was the company or employer that ghosted employees or fired them because the employees could not adapt to a chaotic workplace. The employee would then be left trying to find employment. However, it is clear now that the tables have turned, and many employees are turning to alternative positions when things go awry at their workplace (Cynthia L. Pickett CL, Gardner WL, Knowles M, 2004) (Celestine Williams, Deborah South Richardson, Georgina S. Hammock, Adrian S. Janit, 2012).

Companies can implement a few strategies to discourage employees from ghosting

Give respect to employees. A friendly environment has to be created, and respect for your employee goes a long way. Respect the employees’ opinions, even if you don’t agree with them. This will ease stress or misconceptions about you, the employer, or manager.
The use of direct and indirect communication plays an important role. Maintaining consistency among employees or staff is an important and tough task. The employer has to consider all related aspects and paint a clear picture of the process or instructions to the employees. The employer should never mislead and never over promise and under deliver.

Lastly, the employer must consider the loss of productivity, loss of the required core skills, and loss of morale amongst remaining employees that result from ghosting.

Looking from another perspective

We can consider ghosting from the perspective that an employee wants to get a better opportunity in the labor market, but we must also realize it has an adverse impact on employees as well as employers. When an employee leaves a company without justification, everyone within the organization looks at company management to see how they handled the situation. It’s important not to leave a bad impression among those who remain with the company, or with the employee himself. My office gives everyone a plaque and wishes them well. Some employees have stayed for over 30 years. Remember that the job market is excellent and the unemployment rate is low; employees who leave our company maintain a good attitude towards everyone.

Derrick Darden, PhD (Triple D)


Celestine Williams, Deborah South Richardson, Georgina S. Hammock, Adrian S. Janit. (2012, December). Perceptions of physical and psychological aggression in close relationships: A review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 17(6), 489-494. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2012.06.005

Cynthia L. Pickett CL, Gardner WL, Knowles M. (2004, Sptember 30). The need to belong and enhanced sensitivity to social clues. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(9), 1095-1107. doi:10.1177/0146167203262085

Dewall CN, Macdonald G, Webster GD, Masten Cl, baumeister RF, Powell C, Combs D, Schurtz DR, Stillman TF, Tice DM, Eisenberger NI. (2010). Acetaminophen Reduces Social Pain: Behavioral and Neural Evidence. Psychological Science, 21, pp. 931-7. doi:10. 1177/0956797610374741

Ethan Kross, Marc G. Berman, Walter Mischel, Edward E. Smith, Tor D. Wager. (2011). Social Rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), (pp. 6270-6275). doi:10.1073/pnas.1102693108

Leary, M.R., Haupt, A.L., Strausser, K.S., Chokel JT. (1998). The relationship between interpersona appraisals and state self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1290-9. doi:10.1037//0022-3514.74.5.1290