This time of year, ghosts are associated with trick or treating, scary movies, and haunted houses; however, “ghosting” in the professional world is a year round occurrence. While “ghosting” originated as a term used by online daters to describe ending a relationship by ignoring calls and texts, it can be used any time communication comes to a sudden halt. Unfortunately, this behavior has been used to avoid conflict and confrontation in the workplace rather than mustering up the courage to confront issues head on.

The following are just a few examples of ghosting in the professional world, and the corresponding actions that you should take when faced with these four different types of ghosts.


Employee Ghosting

What it looks like: The most obvious sign of employee ghosting is not showing up for work. While a family emergency may account for an employee disappearing for a day, ghosting is when they are absent for an extended period of time without an explanation.

Action: Even though employment is terminated when an employee fails to show up, it is still necessary to contact them for an exit interview. Use the exit interview to find out what caused them to disappear so that you can improve retention in the future. If you are unable to reach the ghost (even after some time has passed), talk to their team members and try to piece together why they ceased working and communicating with you.


Candidate Ghosting

What it looks like: The perfect candidate stops responding to your calls or emails as you are trying to extend a job offer. Being ghosted by a candidate often means that they are unsure of how to communicate their lack of interest in the position.

Action: Reflect on the interview and application process, and attempt to pinpoint what caused the candidate to cease communication. Although it may be completely unrelated to your hiring practices, it is helpful to complete this exercise if you have been ghosted by a candidate. Look at the situation as a positive rather than a negative; after all, you avoided hiring a candidate who lacks valuable communication skills.


Coworker Ghosting

What it looks like: Failure to fulfil responsibilities, not contributing to group projects and ignoring emails are all signs that a coworker is ghosting their team. This can be a result of an argument between coworkers, a team member becoming overwhelmed with their workload, or an employee leaving the company altogether (without giving their team any advanced notice).

Action: If you sense that a team member is slipping away, make the effort to reach out before it’s too late. If conflict is the root of the problem, bring the team together to resolve the issue. If your coworker is feeling overwhelmed, make sure that the team finds ways to assist them. Unfortunately, there are times that reaching out won’t prevent being ghosted by a team member; in which case, management will need to be consulted.


Employer Ghosting

What it looks like: Ghosting often occurs after interviews when an employer does not follow up with a candidate. Even though employers may feel awkward calling a candidate to tell them that they didn’t get a job, it is important that they respect the candidate’s time by contacting them once they have reached a decision.

Action: If you feel like you have been ghosted by a potential employer, don’t be afraid to contact them. They may be avoiding an uncomfortable conversation, but there is a chance that they have not made their final decision yet or have simply forgotten to reach out. If they have yet to make their final decision, a quick call to check in will help them gauge your interest level. If they simply got busy and forgot, your call or email will serve as a reminder of the necessity of interview follow ups.


Don’t confuse ghosting with a lapse in communication due to an emergency or a misunderstanding, a true ghost will disappear and it is unlikely that you will hear from them again. Make sure that you know how to deal with these individuals so that you don’t find yourself thinking, “I wonder what happened to _____”.