Forget relationship ghosting (obviously don’t); work ghosting is the new crappy behaviour du jour.
It may not be as emotionally awful – but it is chuffing annoying nonetheless (and ill-mannered and disrespectful and, and, and…).
Let me explain.
A prospective client comes to me, or I go to them, with a project idea.
Emails are sent; meetings are had; ‘great to meet you’s are pinged out; xs are added to signatures; more meetings are enjoyed; ‘could you write up a proposal for me?’ work is requested; said work (that takes a day) is sent; and nada.
A little breezy ‘hey! Just chasing that idea’ mail is sent. And a while later you might get a vague reply.
And then really nada.
Really? But but you x-ed me.
And before you jump to the obvious ‘exactly how crap was your proposal?’ conclusion, let me stress it’s not just me. Work ghosting is happening across the board.
My friend Jenny has a delightful story to share:
I work for a company that has several clinics around the country. I mainly work in the Manchester one – but often have to deal with the manager of the London clinic. Well, I did.
She’s in charge of booking who works where – all the clinics’ shifts – and me and her were emailing about possible London dates for me.
She – via email – suggested some dates that might be available – and asked me to “pencil them in”. So I did.
But when I needed to know if those dates were confirmed, I emailed her again. She didn’t reply.
I emailed her about four times. She never replied. I rang her work number but she ‘wasn’t at her desk’. I rang her mobile and the call went straight to message. She never ever got back to me.
I told my boss and she just shrugged. My husband said maybe she’d been sacked. But sadly not; I still see her name on the conference call lists. Lunatic.
Another friend, Simon, was work ghosted by his company’s MD.
Work hadn’t paid me my bonus so I rang him to ask why. Rang him a few times to ask him why. But he didn’t pick up or reply to any of my voicemails. So I emailed him. The same. I texted him. The same.
It was only when I threatened to take legal action that he bothered to get his assistant to contact me. With some lame-arse excuse – and lame-arse payment date.
I’d worked there for 18 months. Worked so hard that I’d earned a three grand bonus. But I still wasn’t worth replying to? I left the company after they paid me.
And another friend, Sammy, was actually ghosted by her line-manager who sat in the same office as her.
I handed my notice in and my line-manager – worked with her for three years – didn’t even bother to acknowledge it. Just ignored me and the fact that I was leaving.
So I emailed her – she sits four desks away from me – and told her I thought this was unprofessional. She didn’t reply. So I emailed again. And she still didn’t reply.
She didn’t say anything to me – totally ghosted me – for all of my two weeks’ notice.
When I left the office for the last time she said ‘goodbye’ from behind her monitor. So I replied, ‘Yes. See ya. See ya in Hell!’
It is so bloody rude! If you don’t like the work/idea/situation, just say. If financial circumstances have changed, just say. If the fee was too high, say and negotiate. If the dog ate your f***ing laptop, just say. But do not ghost.
So why does it happen? Why do work people ghost? Is this an age thing?
When I deal with old-skool pros (stop it) like my good self, ideas/projects/meetings are agreed in one or two emails. Done. In the diary (but never ‘diarised’). All set. You know where you stand.
But the young and firm? They’re a blooming nightmare.
Emma Kenny, psychologist, writer and creator of Sochal – a free social network that helps people find balance in their lives – agrees age is a factor here:
Learning to say ‘no’, to let people down or confront issues professionally takes time to master – and for many younger professionals, simply ignoring the issue at hand can feel like an easier solution.
The problem of course is this insecurity comes across as rude, arrogant or dismissive – and in the long term causes professional animosity.
It really does. As does the language pre-empting the ghosting. ‘Let’s put a pin in it’ is the latest saying. If you insist. *gets Voodoo doll out*
Is it just age, though? Because, of course, some older people do it too. So why else is this happening?
According to Kenny:
The digital age has created the dismissive age. And it’s troubling on many levels.
Instead of dealing with challenging and difficult conversations and concerns, it’s all too easy to cancel arrangements or to casually ignore people’s emails.
It’s easier to become avoidant of dealing with difficult situations – yet, psychologically speaking, working through less-pleasant professional situations enhances resilience, and makes us better at dealing with subsequent similar challenges.
And, of course, some people are pleasers. Pure and simple. They say what we want to hear with absolutely no intention of fulfilling their promises.
Whilst this is frustrating, it comes from their inability to say ‘no’ and stems from them feeling unable to deal with letting someone down face-to-face.
Jeez, Louise. It’s an emotional minefield.
So what should we do? How do we deal with being work ghosted?
Well first of all, check your own behaviour. If this keeps happening then rethink your actions – chances are you may be the problem.
If this is the case, then take a risk and call the last offending party and ask them outright. While it may be tough to hear, it may well offer you the greatest insight.
Calling them directly – and asking if you/they have a problem. This direct approach can really work as it means they have to take responsibility for their ghosting behaviour.
Pick your battles, though! How important is this professional relationship to you?
If it’s worth pursuing, then just keep on sending your ideas and messages. And remember, while people can initially feel positive about a new professional relationship, life sometimes gets in the way.
New relationships, professional problems, and a million other First World problems mean you simply aren’t on their important radar. Instead of taking it personally, try to reframe the possibility that other things are going on in that person’s world.
What? I’m not the most important in their world?
Right, I’m going to email my therapist about this. And she better reply…