First published in Polish by Małgorzata Rosalska
Ghosting is a term that describes a situation when one person abandons another person suddenly and without any explanation. He or she simply disappears and ends all interactions. It was originally used to describe this kind of behaviour in relationships, both in real life and online. Their common feature was a sudden and unannounced breaking off contact.
This concept also proved to be adequate to describe the behaviours observed in the labour market. Interestingly, ghosting is practised by both sides - by employers and by the candidates. Jobseekers often share their experiences of awaiting a response or feedback after an interview, yet the phone remained forever silent. So often the familiar closing formula of "we'll get back to you soon" turned out to be a promise never fulfilled. Also, many employers or recruiters can point to examples when candidates did not show up at the arranged interview, did not answer their phone, or did not respond to e-mails. Some disappeared after the recruitment process was completed and they were invited to sign the contract. Others did not show up on the first day of work. Just like that, without any notice, they just simply disappeared ...
Photo by iSAW Company on Unsplash
Some recruitment specialists call ghosting a new trend in the labour market. This phenomenon is certainly very interesting. I have the impression that it is, above all, an expression of a lack of mutual respect. Only then would I point to such reasons as lack of professionalism or characteristics of the labour market. However, it must be acknowledged that ghosting did not appear out of nowhere and for no reason. It seems to me that among the myriad reasons it is worth indicating 3 – which are, in my opinion - the most important ones:
1. Recruitment culture, or, rather, lack thereof. This issue concerns both recruiters and candidates. On the one hand, we are still dealing with cases of patronising treatment of candidates - they are not given feedback, their emails or phone calls remain without a reply. Lack of time, cost-cutting or a large group of candidates applying for the position cannot be treated as an excuse. On the other hand, every recruiter will be happy to share stories of irresponsible, unprepared and woefully uninformed candidates. Some stories on the subject sound like urban legends, or the script of a movie (sometimes comedy, sometimes drama, and sometimes even a thriller ...)
2. Employee market. One can accept the thesis that a larger number of job offers meant that some candidates felt more comfortable in recruitment processes and were driven primarily by their own benefits. When applying to several employers, they chose the offer which they considered to be the most attractive. The multitude of choice options not only made it easier to make the decision to change jobs but also sometimes modelled nonchalant behaviours during the recruitment process. However, recent weeks have shown us how dynamic the labour market is. The transition from the employee market to the employer market is faster and more dynamic than the experts assumed. The crisis came suddenly and unexpectedly. What does this situation teach us? First of all, it is not worth burning bridges. You never know when you will come across the same employer again...
3. Underestimation of topics related to ethics and job etiquette in career guidance classes (especially in secondary schools). Instead of practising writing a cover letter and answering the 10 most frequently asked questions during an interview over and over again, it is also worthwhile to address topics related to work ethics. I am aware that for some people it may sound like an unattractive and old-fashioned topic, but it is - contrary to appearances - very practical. I suggest looking at ghosting in terms of ethics, maturity, respect for the other party, and professionalism, regardless of whether we think of employers or job candidates. Work culture, behaviour standards and etiquette are not empty, outdated concepts. They are also important in the context of building one’s brand and position in the industry and within the professional environment. For those for whom these arguments are too general and imprecise, I propose a very practical and mundane argument: you never know when and under what circumstances you will meet in the labour market again. Think about whether it is worth to burn bridges and whether you really want to leave disappointment and a load of negative emotions behind. A professional reputation is usually honed through a long and arduous process. Why spoil it with irresponsible behaviour?
Ghosting is a phenomenon where everyone loses. These losses are not just about time and money. They also include categories such as good name, reputation, and the 'me' brand. In ghosting prevention, the most important is mutual respect and the ability to look a little further than the tip of your own nose. The other side's perspective is also important. Before we disappear, it is worth asking yourself if we would like someone to treat us in the same way.
Let’s treat each other with respect and professionalism. We will all benefit from it.
dr hab. Małgorzata Rosalska – pedagogue, career counsellor, assistant professor in the Department of Lifelong Learning and Career Counselling at the Faculty of Educational Studies of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. She specialises in the field of educational and vocational counselling, labour market policy, adult education and educational policy. EPALE Ambassador.