A floating sheet shaped like a ghost levitating against a lurid pink background.
Image: © Zamurovic/Stock.adobe.com

People are ‘ghosting’ employers instead of handing in their notice

10 Jan 2019

Once isolated to the world of dating, ‘ghosting’ has now arrived in the workplace as employees end things without so much as a goodbye.

You look down at your phone and your stomach drops. ‘Hey, where are you?’ It’s them, again, screaming into the void, destined to never get a response because you never intend to give one.

The situation got untenable and you just had to end things. Those final conversations can feel like being dragged over hot coals sometimes, so instead you just drop off without a word. Eight months ending suddenly with a thud. Probably not your wisest move, probably unkind to say the least, but that is what is happening. The longer you leave it, the more imperative it becomes to remain in the wind. They’ll never hear from you again.

Except this isn’t someone that you were dating on and off, it’s your boss. Your boss is asking where you are because you didn’t show up to work, and that was a week ago. You ‘ghosted’ your job.

Have you done this? If so, you’re not alone, so explains a report released in December 2018 by the Federal Reserve of Chicago. “A number of contacts said that they had been ‘ghosted’, a situation in which a worker stops coming to work without notice and then is impossible to contact,” it says, chalking the uptick in this practice down to a tight labour market in the US in which there are more jobs than there are people to fill them.

Speaking to The Washington Post, labour economist from Ball State University in Indiana, Michael Hicks, put it plainly: “Why hassle with a boss and a bunch of outprocessing when literally everyone has been hiring?”

The temptation is more than understandable. The dread that can accompany the prospect of breaking it to your boss, your colleagues, doing an exit interview and more can be suffocating.

It would be far easier to avoid the process entirely, yet it comes at the expense of likely enraging your now ex-boss. The opportunity to use them as a reference will crumble. You risk jeopardising your reputation among your former colleagues, some of whom you may want to stay in contact with for either personal or professional reasons.

The effect of ‘boo-rnout

While it may be easy to brand a ghosting employee as rude, employers should consider the situation with a little more curiosity. Why would an employee feel they can’t communicate enough to indicate their departure?

Director of marketing at Tinypulse, Caleb Papineau, argued in conversation with Business Insider that it’s a matter of not feeling their needs are being met. “Quitting a job abruptly is neither good for the employee nor the employer. Employees that feel unheard and underappreciated at times can feel as if they have no choice but to leave abruptly.”

This view, however, lays a lot of the blame at the feet of higher-ups, despite growing evidence that the question of why someone leaves a job is more complex than merely jumping ship because of a bad boss.

The situation could be more sinister, which seems likely if someone does something as drastic as ghosting. It could be that employees who suddenly bail are feeling the effects of burnout, which has become pervasive among this working generation. The overwhelming anxiety could make it feel impossible to take a constructive step to change your situation – so instead, a worker takes a silent step back.

This doesn’t make the method of quitting any less of a bad idea, but people in distress are generally bubbling over with ill-advised impulses. So if an employee does it, an employer should perhaps consider that something went very badly wrong, and soften their (understandable) ire with compassion.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

Loading now, one moment please! Loading