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Stop Ghosting People

Gavin is so close to his dream job, he can almost taste the free office lunch. He’s been through nine interviews in total, some of them with as many as four interviewers in the room. At last, the HR director told him he “seemed like a good fit” and an offer would be emailed in a day or two. Gavin never heard from the company again. The same thing happened to Sara after she was flown to a company’s headquarters and shown where her new office would be.

Sam hired Miranda, a bright, enthusiastic recent grad to an entry level marketing position. She seemed to be getting on well with the team, and Sam was pleased with her work. Then, about three months after her first day, Miranda stopped showing up for work. No phone call, no text, no email. Miranda simply vanished. Sam learned later that she’d taken a similar position at a competitor company.

Stan reached out to Lucas about a possible consulting gig. They met for two hours in Stan’s office, where they reviewed his business problem, and discussed possible ways Lucas could be of assistance. A few days later, they met again, and Lucas presented a detailed proposal outlining the work he would do for Stan, along with deliverables and timelines. Stan was excited and told Lucas he’d give him a yes or no answer the following week. Lucas sent a few follow-up emails, but never heard from Stan again.

Michael is job hunting and has been setting up networking coffee meetings with people in his industry. Mira responded quickly to his request email. She’d love to have coffee with him. Thrilled, Michael wrote back suggesting a few dates and times. You guessed it, he never heard from Mira again.

Look, I don’t want to sound like a fist-shaking grandma, but when did ghosting become an acceptable mode of business conduct? Or perhaps a better question is, when did we all become such a big bunch of chickenshits?

I get it. We don’t want to say no. We don’t want to appear incompetent. We don’t want to look or sound stupid. We don’t want to let someone down. Or, we’re just really immature and can’t handle the slightest bit of discomfort. So, first we avoid. And then the avoidance turns into ghosting.

We've all done it, but it needs to stop, because ghosting is exceptionally poor behavior. At best, it’s annoying. At worst it’s cruel or even unethical. So, if you’re a habitual ghoster, here are three reasons you need to knock it off:

1. It’s rude.

Ghosting leaves a person feeling rejected. And here’s an interesting little fact: our brains process rejection in the same way we process physical pain. So, it’s not only rude, it can actually hurt people. Imagine being in Michael’s vulnerable position as an unemployed job-hunter. Why on earth would you want to kick him when he’s down? You’re not that kind of person, are you?

2. It’s as psychologically damaging to you as it is to them.

You would never do this in real life. You’d never just not answer someone’s questions while sitting across a table from them. Why? Because you know it’s wrong. So, when you do it digitally, you also know it’s wrong. And every time you think of that person, every time they show up in your LinkedIn feed, or on a group email, you’ll know that you did a crappy thing to them. Who the hell needs to carry around that kind of psychic baggage?

It’s a silly self-inflicted wound.

3. Finally, it’s remarkably short sighted.

The person you ghosted won’t just cease to exist. They’ll continue to have a career. They’ll advance up the success ladder. Maybe they’ll attain a significant leadership position. They might even become influential in your industry. And they’ll always remember that you proved yourself to be unreliable, unprofessional and maybe even a bit of a jerk. They won’t recommend you for that job you're perfect for. They won’t introduce you to that person you're trying to get a meeting with. In fact, they won't go out of their way to help you at all. A career is long and unpredictable. You may be on top right now, but this time next year, things could be entirely different. You cannot afford to throw away professional relationships.

So on behalf of everyone who’s ever been ghosted (which is everybody) – For God’s sake, just say no! Do it in a quick and courteous manner, and we’ll respect you for it.

Got it? Good.

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