Skip Navigation

Ghosts in the Workplace

If you date or know someone who is currently dating then you probably already know all about ghosting. In order to avoid having a difficult conversation (“I don’t want to see you anymore.”), the person goes silent. Call, texts, and emails are not responded to and the relationship and interactions drift away.

This ghosting behavior has become part of the workplace:

  • Companies make employment offers and the candidate doesn’t respond.   Ghosted!

  • Your boss assures you that a promotion is in the works but months go by and you hear nothing about it. Ghosted!

  • A colleague promised you a report by Friday morning. It’s now the following Wednesday and you’ve heard nothing. Ghosted!

I’ve had ghosting experiences too:.

After a few meetings, a colleague suggested we team up for a project because our skills were so complimentary. He suggested we meet again in a month. I emailed to arrange the meeting and heard nothing. I waited a week and then called, leaving a voice mail message, and got no response. I tried one more time and — ‘crickets’ (the sound of nothing!). Did I misinterpret “meeting again in a month?” Did he change his mind? Did he have too much work to take a new project on? I’ll never know. After three tries – I gave up and moved on.

A client and I had been working together for about a year and many of her original goals, as well as some new objectives,  have een achieved. She said to me just before the holiday season “I’m really looking forward to starting up again in January.” When I reached out to schedule our next meeting I received no response. I called and left a message and heard nothing in return. I emailed again and after no response, made the logical assumption that the coaching engagement was over.

Ghosting seems to be an epidemic that is spreading like wildfire!

As I talk to others about this phenomena, it appears that ghosting in the workplace is accelerating. I know, I know – people are busy, overscheduled and as a result, they are very stressed.  Perhaps it is human nature to be more focused on what is easiest instead of what is considered by so many to be common courtesy. Not responding at all is definitely easier. It avoids anger and disappointment. Also sidestepped is an uncomfortable emotion and the need to come up with an explanation. More and more, people are opting to be ghosts in the workplace.

Steps to Take

Getting ghosted can make you feel unimportant. It could even reinforce your concern about how liked, respected, or worthy you are as a person. It’s almost impossible to avoid feeling that way when you first realize you’ve been abandoned. But once the realization sinks in you can do some things to help you regain some control.

1. Check the mirror and reflect – Did you play any role in being ghosted? Were your expectations reasonable? Was there anything you did that might have caused the other person to dislike you?

2. Choose a follow-up – It can be a tactful follow-up, a blunt follow-up, or no follow up at all. I like the brief and tactful follow-up. For example: “I was pleased that you agreed to help me get the project done by Friday. It is now Wednesday. Can I expect that or have you gotten swamped with other things?”  You can choose to be even more direct: “At our last one-on-one meeting, you told me I was in line for a promotion that would include a significant salary increase. After three months, I emailed you and got no response. I am disappointed and considering possible next steps. I look forward to a clear response at your earliest convenience.”

3. Move on – Having taken thoughtful action which has resulted in no response, it’s usually wise to not continue to focus on it. Distract yourself by taking steps about a different matter.

Let’s Talk

Ghosting is rude and unprofessional.  Not only does it not reflect well on the person who is doing the ghosting, but it’s also cruel. Why not suggest to the ghost that they respond, even if it’s just to respond with a one-liner such as, “I’m swamped. I’ll get back to you in a week.”  You may have to face the fact that they are not as good a person as they (or you) think they are.


A few months after being ghosted by my client she reached out to connect with me on LinkedIn. I considered it. I considered her behavior. I thought about my LinkedIn network. I’m not proud to admit that after some careful deliberation I chose to ghost her. Because I can understand why someone opts to ghost another. I hope she understands too.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 10th, 2019 at 3:10 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.