As visions of beer chugging and that last shot of Cuervo swirled around in his head, Graham Peterson’s dreams were pierced with the sound of his phone buzzing. He reached over to his nightstand, held the glowing screen to his face and realized it was a potential employer confirming their meeting later that afternoon for the job. Although most unemployed recent grads would jump at the opportunity, Graham wasn’t having any of it. With as much strength as he could muster, he took his shaky, recently manicured index finger and pressed down on the text message — BLOCK.
In case you’ve been too busy working, “ghosting” is a common practice of vanishing from a relationship (professional or otherwise) without warning or explanation. From dating apps to texting to VM, DM, IM and in person…there is pretty much no manner of human interaction that’s immune. For the person being “ghosted”, the radio silence can be deafening. “Ghosting is the perfect way to make a clean cut without hurting anyone’s feelings,” says Peterson. “We are all so busy — why drag on an uncomfortable situation longer than you have to?”
The folks over at Merriam-Webster added the current meaning of the word “ghost” to the dictionary in 2017, although lexicographers discovered that the idea made its debut way back to Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra, a tragedy that was first performed circa 1607. More recently, it was used in an entry published 14 years ago on Urban Dictionary, a Wikipedia-style crowdsourcing online resource for slang words and phrases that invites users to “Define Your World.” Way back in 2004, someone by the name Falken defined it as “an adjective describing some who has left or is leaving.” Even further than that, a newsgroup on Usenet in 1996 referenced being “ghosted” by a golf instructor who never showed up for a session.
According to studies by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a whopping 2.4% of workers quit their jobs in May— the highest share in nearly 20 years.
Today, however, “ghosting” has become a household concept that we can’t seem to ghost away from. Once upon a time, it was commonplace — almost expected — that a company would ignore job applicants if they were not interested in hiring them, no matter how far in the process they got. Today, the tables have turned. Instead of formally quitting, they just stop coming in and block all possible communication. “It’s really easy to do,” says Jane, who preferred to remain anonymous for this piece. “My friends call me a serial flake…I just hop from one company to another, getting paid for whatever job I’m offered until I get bored and decide to move on. I’ve had more than a dozen jobs so far this year and I’ve never given a two-weeks notice, sometimes I’ve never even shown up for my first day — I start a new job tomorrow morning, and I’m not even sure I want to go in, I just don’t think I vibe with the company culture — too many cubicles and the dress code is a little too strict for my liking, but I just got all the orientation materials yesterday so you can’t really blame me for not doing my research!”
From entry level to 6-figure executive positions, the practice is negatively affecting the hiring process and the effects are unprecedented. “When you can’t find someone reliable to hire for an opening that needs to be filled as soon as possible, you run the risk of lost productivity — or worse — low morale amongst existing employees,” says John Valdezzo, a South Florida-based private recruiter who has worked with several Fortune 500 companies throughout his 25-year career. “For many younger job seekers, ghosting has in essence become a non-verbal confirmation that they are not interested.”
According to the U.S. Labor Department, more open jobs exist today than there are unemployed workers — the rate of people quitting their jobs hit a record level earlier this year, with almost 2/3 of those quitting voluntarily. “It’s becoming standard practice for candidates to simply ‘swipe left’ when a potential employment opportunity is not the right match,” says Valdezzo. “Many times, they’re receiving multiple job offers and end up accepting the one with the best terms and most flexibility.”
But ghosting doesn’t always need a resume tied to it. Increasingly, the very people you’ve invited into your social networks are the folks who could leave you hanging at the worst times. These people repeatedly ask for time on your calendar, confirm meet dates and then cancel at the last minute. “So sorry! Can we reschedule?!”…Then they vanish like a ghost. A few months later, they’re back to haunt you. “How’s it going?! Drinks?” Unfortunately, these people may or may not ever disappear into thin air forever…but you could decide to turn the tables and just BLOCK them out of your life forever. What a relief that would be.