Ghosting in the Workplace: It's OK to say no
Over the past 6 months or so, we have seen a big increase in the number of strong conversations and meetings which have resulted in nothing but a string of solid silence. After looking at this more closely, we’ve realised that we are being ‘ghosted’ in the workplace, but what does this mean? Ghosting, according to The Urban Dictionary, Ghosting, means: "the shutdown/ceasing of communication with someone without notice." The Urban Dictionary also implies that Ghosting is related to a person’s level of maturity and communication skills (and not in a positive way). It’s original meaning came from the world of online dating, as the dreaded occurrence where, for whatever reason, a person cuts off all communication with another. This term and behaviour has now moved beyond the world of ‘romance’ and into the workplace. After doing some research and reading up on this more, it’s clear that Ghosting doesn’t only apply to awkward Tinder relationships but is increasingly rearing its head as an acceptable form of dealing with a professional or business situation. Is anyone else finding this approach rude and difficult to navigate? we’ve had quite a few colleagues and friends say the same thing, which made us question…
Are people choosing not to respond because it’s just easier?
Has the way we communicate changed so drastically that this is now acceptable?
Are people ignoring each other because they don’t know what to say?
Workplace applications and technology advancements have definitely changed the way we communicate, talk and interact with each other over the past 10 years, but is this actually starting to show a double-edged sword? Are we so used to hiding behind technology in every aspect of our lives that this is a natural evolution into the workplace? As the way we work changes and attitudes to work shift, are we becoming more personal in our approach to business and professional deliver?
What we are seeing in our day-to-day:
As a team, we have been dissecting our conversations and meetings to see if we can pinpoint why or at what point professional Ghosting comes into play. We wanted to put the spotlight onto ourselves first.. Part of our business operates in the business development, partnership and sponsorship industry. A level of limited and/or lack of response initially has always occurred and to a certain degree, this is to be expected. We communicate with people every day via email, LinkedIn, phone and video calls. We take a very tailored approach, with detailed and extensive research, so when we do have an initial conversation, it is often with someone who we feel is genuinely interested and keen to understand what opportunities might be on the table. When we engage in conversation, we are aware that the interested party may not always provide a green light signal, sometimes the opportunity, audience or client we are liaising with aren’t right for the organisations objectives. Whilst we always go into a meeting with a positive outlook, we are always prepared that the meeting could result in a, ‘thanks, but this isn’t meeting our objectives at the moment’ scenario. That’s to be expected and that feedback is something which we really appreciate. Most surprisingly, (and the ones which prompted this blog) are the conversations which have been very strong and then pretty much fallen into complete radio silence. Nothing back. No response again. Ever. The real question is what impact will this increasing ‘professional Ghosting’ approach have on work? We have already highlighted that Ghosting creates an ill feeling (whether you’re being Ghosted professionally or personally) and we think the impact on organisation's will be detrimental. If Ghosting does become the professional ‘norm’ we can see it will ultimately limit the ability for organisations to; develop strategy, build brand profile, create loyalty within industry and communicate with customers and employees. So, what are the current enablers of Ghosting:
Is it a business culture issue?
Is it purely down to the individual’s character?
Is it down to hierarchy and managerial positioning?
Or is it a broader trend of professional laziness and courtesy not being on the agenda?
Be like Casper.. the friendly Ghost!
On one hand, we can see a person believing that Ghosting is the best way to let someone down softly without hurting their feelings. Very British. Although, we want to call Brava Sierra on that. So what can we do about ‘Ghosting’? The consensus at b2b is that perhaps ‘Ghosts’ are uncomfortable saying ‘no thanks’, are trying to avoid conflict or don’t want to deal with a hard sales message – perhaps from a past experience. We have also experienced this hard and direct sales approach in the past and it’s not fun or pleasant. A a swift response of ‘thanks, but no thanks’ should be recognised and accepted by most sales or business development professionals. After all, we are all grown-up’s aren't we? Professional courtesy goes a long way and in our line of business, we would rather have a short quick email with a decline and a reason why, which enables us to wrap this up clearly, with no loose ends and feed back to our clients on where a conversation got to. Simple. The future has always excited us, new technologies, new ways of working and new opportunities are a big part of the projects we work with our clients on. As a company we always try to embrace new strategies and communication tools. But we question, if this is a sign of the times should we revert to old school communication? We recognise communication is changing and our work lives are getting busier, however the courtesy of updating someone you have had a conversation with, should never go out of style. Ghosting may always happen as a default for some people, whether it is because it’s easier, more comfortable or a result of how society communicates. But please, if you are going to be a ‘Ghost’ please be more like Casper and have the professional decency and communications skills to reply at the very least.