Urban Dictionary defines ghosting as “The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone,” and while the term originated in the dating world, it seems to be slithering itself into the workplace too.
Professional ghosting isn’t just horrible when you’re on the receiving end, but it can be disastrous for your reputation of you’re the one doing the ghosting. The average worker spends an estimated 28% of the workweek managing e-mails, so chances are that if you’re the recipient, you’ve at least seen the email come through. According to a study done at USC, more than 90% of replies happen within a day of receiving the message, so if you haven’t received a reply in a day or two, there’s a very high chance that you won’t receive a reply at all.
Obviously no one likes being on the receiving end of professional ghosting. It can hurt your self-esteem, and lead to internal questions about what you could have done differently. “Did I say something wrong?” “Could I have approached this differently?”
The important thing to remember if you’re being professionally ghosted is to take the high road. Learn from your experience and don’t ghost others. If you come across the person who ghosted you at a later time, keep your cool and act professional. While it’s okay to mention that you sent them an email (or many) without a response a while back, it’s important to show that you have taken the high road and aren’t holding a grudge. Internal feelings are fine, but keeping outward presentation pleasant is what will help you professionally. No one likes someone who holds grudges, especially at work. And while it doesn’t make it okay, you never know what came up or why that person never responded.
BEING THE GHOSTER
It may seem easy to just brush off an email and not respond, but on top of being extremely rude, if you professionally ghost someone, you are being unprofessional and hurting your reputation. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and as long as you voice that opinion respectfully and appropriately, there is nothing wrong with that.
Have you decided that you don’t want to work with someone or that a project isn’t the right fit? Totally your choice, but take action and tell your potential partners what’s going on. There’s nothing worse than negotiating with someone only to all of the sudden not receive any responses. If you’ve gone with another option, that’s okay, but communicate and don’t burn your bridges.
By ghosting someone, you are showing that you:
- Don’t care enough or respect the other party enough to respond
- You lack professionalism
- You cannot take accountability for your decisions
Do you want to represent that in your career? Hopefully not. Try the touch it once rule-- it helps keep you on your best email grind.
What do you do if you’ve ghosted someone and want to fix it?
Responding late is better than never. It’s still rude to wait a long time to respond to someone, but if you have and want to remedy the situation, the best way to handle it is to take responsibility.
A great way to respond is something like this:
“Hi ___, So sorry for the delayed response. This email should have gotten out to you sooner. Unfortunately we’ve decided to go with another option, but we appreciate your hard work, and would love to keep in touch about future opportunities. Best of luck on your endeavors!”
This response shows contrition (or email guilt), gives you accountability for your actions, and lays out the situation clearly. All you can do is take responsibility, learn from your mistakes, and move forward. A simple email saying “Thank you, but we’re not interested at this time” or something of that nature takes seconds to craft, and shows the recipient that you care enough to take the time to respond. No one can hold it against you if you’ve gone a different direction as long as you’ve been clear with your communication.
Is one email response really worth ruining your reputation and potentially your career? Chime in below.
In the time it takes to write a quick email, you will be able to help your professional reputation, give someone piece of mind, and ensure that you’re not burning any bridges.
A native San Franciscan, Michele Lando is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and founder of writestylesonline.com. She has a passion for helping others present the best version of themselves, both on paper and in person, and works to polish individuals' application package and personal style. Aiming to help create a perfect personal branding package, Write Styles presents tips to enhance your resume, style, and boost your confidence.