Credit: Gerd Altmann/Pixababy 

Ghosting is a behavior that emerged from the dating world and is simply leaving the relationship without any expressed warning. No text. No communication. Just exit. For many, ghosting creates doubt within themselves and eventually begins desensitizing people to avoid confrontation and closure. Since this is a behavioral pattern, it has crossed over into other areas of life. The newest application of ghosting is in the workplace.

As a Behavioral Scientist, what amazes me is the hypersensitivity we all seem to have about almost all aspects of life EXCEPT relationships.

Isn’t it interesting that we stand up against bullying, shaming, or political un-correctness; but with people we are beginning to act with total disregard?

Is it technology that’s driving our behavior or that we are to attached to our devices and are cognitively evolving?

For the Happiness Hypothesis Study Your Happiness Hypothesis Study, I conducted in-depth interviews with men and women, ranging from ages 28-46, exploring why ghosting was happening in the workplace and found that:

  • 85% of people ghosting their employer was because they wanted to avoid confrontation
  • 60% of people ghosting their employers felt like they were overworked and underpaid
  • 37% of employers being ghosted by interviewees started double booking interviews
  • 18% of employers who are being ghosted by interviewees think that the interviewee had an unusual circumstance

So how do we prepare for this new behavior and reaction? Well, some employers are still giving candidates the opportunity to recover from ghosting looking activities. Matt, 28, Entrepreneur explains how they are handling the volume of candidates that are ghosting them during the interview process by giving the candidate a window of time to respond. “As you might imagine, I loathe when candidates go radio silent. In fact, if we’re trying to get in contact with a potential candidate to speak about a job offer or a second round of interviews and they do not respond within 48-72 hours, my business partner and I move on. We feel like that kind of behavior speaks volumes about the character and morals of the candidate.”

But, the behavior isn’t just happening in one direction. It’s not just the interviewee that’s doing the ghosting. For some industries, like media, it already had a standard practice of ghosting because of the volume of demand it faces. Brianna, 29, Journalist, explains that “this is happening so often with editors ghosting freelancers, it’s almost an expected ‘blip’ in the industry.”

But, interestingly we also found that it also occurs when a candidate is seeking an internal position. Blake*, 35, who’s employed by the US Military explains “You do the interview and then…. silence. Why is this??? Especially when it’s internal. This is how you treat your own employee?”

The underlying issue about ghosting is that people want to avoid confrontation even when circumstances are justifiable. “[I ghosted because] the interviewer was unprofessional-I found out the person leaving was so stressed out. Not from the person herself but by the initial interviewer.” Jane*, 35, Finance tech industry.

We also found that confrontation sometimes could be nuanced. Overall job dissatisfaction and frustration can lead to not wanting to confront their employer.

They already feel worthless by the company, so why give them any notice?

Sarah, 33, Restaurant industry “[When I’ve ghosted] it’s because I was sick of my job, but I didn’t want confrontation. I found myself saying things, like, ‘I don’t get paid enough for this’ and I am beyond burned out from stress at this job. I work my butt off to make the corporation money, and I don’t see anything from it. I live paycheck to paycheck.”

But, what is it about today’s world that makes some avoid any form of confrontation? Not face-to face, not through text, not even through an email? After reviewing my data, I found some correlations that corresponded to styles of behavior. Detachment. That’s what is driving the behavior. So, I developed what I call, Detachment Styles theory.

Afterall, it is their detachment to outcomes that is making them behave the way they do.

You want to avoid confrontation with another human being? Ghost. Sick of your job? Ghost? Think the job is going to suck after the interview is set up? Ghost. Want to avoid anything that might have the slightest potential of triggering something within you? Ghost.

The Four Distinct Detachment Styles **

Ambivalent. This style often rationalizes themselves out of opportunities often. They don’t want to put in any additional effort into a relationship because they predict the outcome will be negative. They also avoid confrontation and will abruptly leave situations without forewarning.

Dismissive. This style often replaces their desires with some other compensatory behavior. They have a fear of faulty decision making and they don’t trust themselves emotionally.

Secure-stable. This style seeks security and stability in their environment and they adapt to changes in their environment with ease. They proceed with caution because they often have patterns and cycles of dating the same types.

Displaced. They attach to their digital world and persona as a source of support and human interaction. Their sense of self is dependent on their digital selves that seek “vanity validation”. They’re fulfilled by the world that they have created and do not necessarily derive happiness by being around people physically.

*All rights reserved.

**Name has been changed to protect confidentiality.