'Ghosting' makes its way to the workforce, employees quitting jobs by not showing up

Technology is something we often look to for convenience – from ordering takeout to finding a date, to of course, finding a job.

But as simple as technology can make our lives, it can also be detriment – especially when it comes to how we deal with uncomfortable situations at work.

“Ghosting” – it’s a slang term used when someone disappears and ceases all contact, usually after a few dates. But this cold way of breaking things off isn’t stopping at relationships. It’s bleeding into the workforce. More young people are quitting their jobs by simply not showing up.

Entrepreneur Ray didn’t want us to show his face, but he chose ghosting as his preferred method of quitting his last job in sales.

“I think more people are understanding that Chicago is an at will employer, so if a company can fire you on the spot, you should be able to leave on the spot,” Ray said.

Now, job seekers are taking on the ghosting strategy. Recruiter James Hornick says technology and a workforce more reliant on email and less face-to-face interaction gives people an easy out with job offers.

“Some companies are becoming too reliant on technology and automation at the expense of building relationships with job seekers. So sometimes job seekers feel like they don’t need to get back to anyone because they never really got to know anybody enough where they really owe a response,” Hornick said. 

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While recruiters say ghosting is a more entry level issue, TJ Saye – a chief operating officer at a Chicago law firm – says it happens on multiple levels, from law clerks to lawyers – again, due to a lack of personal touch.

“Nowadays an individual can go to a website and they can send their resume off to a thousand different companies. So I could receive maybe 300, 400, 500 resumes for a specific job, and maybe when the dust settles find 10 candidates that meet the criteria. And of the 10 candidates that I might get, maybe half of them won’t respond to the initial interview. Half of them won’t respond to the actual interview itself. They won’t show up. So they’re ghosts,” Saye said.

A good example: Saye says he had a law clerk at his firm stop showing up to work entirely with no communication. So, he decided to investigate a little further.

“Finally I sent an employee to his house just to make sure he was okay, and uh, he was having a party on his front lawn with a bunch of his friends,” Saye said.

Doctor Keith Carroll with the Chicago School of Professional Psychology says the concept of ghosting runs deeper than just technological convenience. It’s also that our networks have expanded.

“Many times it’s not that they know the direct person. It’s they know two or three contacts away. So walking away from the company doesn’t burn a direct connection or a bridge for them. You’re not offending anyone you know personally,” Carroll said.

At the end of the day, Hornick says it’s a job numbers game with the current unemployment rate at a low 3.8 percent.

“If people really don’t like what they are doing, they know they can find something else more easily,” Hornick said.

As for entrepreneur Ray, he’s now running a construction company among other projects. He only has one regret.

“Not doing it sooner,” he said.

Ghosting isn’t just an inconvenience to employers. It’s a major time and money suck. Recruiters estimate it costs about 20 percent of a job’s salary to hire someone for that position.