Ghosting, Quiet Quitting, and Ways to Prevent Them

December 4, 2023
Ghosting, Quiet Quitting, and Ways to Prevent Them

Ghosting and quiet quitting were unheard of a few years ago but have become household terms in today’s modern work. Learn the difference and effective ways to deal with them in your business.

7 Ways to Prevent Employee Ghosting

So, you’re ready to send an offer to a candidate, but you receive crickets to your request to set up a final call? Or maybe your new team member never showed up to work? You could even find that a current employee slowly fades away and stops showing up to work.

These are all forms of employee ghosting and can be challenging for managers, HR leaders, and recruiters. So, what can your team do to prevent employee ghosting? Read on to learn more.

What is employee ghosting?

Let’s discuss what employment ghosting is.

For a long time, the only form of ghosting discussed was employer ghosting. This is when employers stop communicating with potential candidates due to internal issues in the hiring process. In an employer’s market, you might find that ghosted employees will re-engage when you’re ready to pick up the conversation.

Employee ghosting is when candidates or employees who were engaged in the recruitment process becoming disengaged. So, a candidate who might have been answering every call or email decides to stop responding or returning your messages. On the other hand, you might have an employee who was going to every shift but then stops showing up.

Acts of ghosting on either side can have a profound impact on hiring and work.

The impacts of employee ghosting

Workplace ghosting was an issue before the pandemic started. A 2018 study by Clutch noted that job candidates approved of ghosting companies but didn’t like being ghosted in return. The Clutch study did give some context on employee ghosting: Most candidates felt that early-stage ghosting was appropriate. On the other hand, ghosting after accepting an offer wasn’t.

After the pandemic, Indeed conducted another study on ghosting in the workplace. Indeed’s survey shared that employers had ghosted 77% of candidates since the United States onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Indeed’s study also noted that 28% of job seekers had ghosted an employer.

As a result, more companies are keeping track of “ghosts”. The study found that 54% of job seekers had faced consequences from ghosting. According to Indeed, job candidates ghost because they received another offer, decided it was not the right job, or didn’t receive enough money.

How to prevent employee ghosting

Employment ghosting is a 2-way street. What companies do to candidates affects what candidates do to them. Thus, there are specific activities that companies can do to stop their ghosting problem in its tracks. Here are some strategies your organization can follow today:

1. Speed up your hiring process

Does it take you months to hire a new candidate? The best employees need a speedy process because they may be connecting with multiple companies. Before you list a new position, make sure you have everything squared away like the:

  • Number of positions you are filling
  • Pay for those positions
  • Number of interview rounds you want

Everything can move quickly when your hiring process is squared away before hiring. Speed matters when it comes to preventing employee ghosting.

2. Communicate with potential employees early and often

Communication is essential to prevent ghosting. Ghosting is a lapse in communication, so connecting can be the antidote. Make sure that you are communicating as often as you can.

Frequent communication can be daunting if you are hiring for multiple roles, so utilize technology to speed up communication across candidates. It can be difficult when you don’t have news, but sometimes sharing that information can keep candidates engaged in the hiring process. Honesty is a necessary part of the hiring process.

3. Be present, even after you have a signed offer letter

According to the report from Indeed, a quarter of employers have shared that they’ve had new team members not show up on their first day of work. A signed offer letter doesn’t always mean you have a new employee. As an employer, you must continue to connect, answer questions, and engage even after you have a signed offer letter. Start by creating a pre-boarding process to focus on employee retention.

4. Create a stellar onboarding process for new hires

Once an employee shows up, what do you do?

The next step is onboarding that team member and making them feel like part of your organization. Employees want to work with organizations they connect with. It’s not uncommon for employees to leave within the first 90 days of work. While you want to part ways with employees that aren’t happy, it can be challenging for HR and departments that are short-staffed. Make sure you put your best foot forward to keep hires if possible.

5. Engage employees throughout their company tenure

Employee engagement isn’t just for new hires. Employees must be engaged throughout their tenure. Make sure that you are:

  • Sending out engagement surveys
  • Celebrating important days like birthdays and big/small wins
  • Addressing workplace concerns

Over time your efforts will reduce employee ghosting and create happier employees.

6. Create an effective no-call/no-show policy

When an employee no-call/no-shows, it can significantly impact the workflow for all your team members. Managers and staff must pick up the extra slack because the company needs to run effectively. An effective no-call/no-show policy is challenging to create because you don’t want to be too punitive. Creating a punitive approach is ineffective for 2 reasons. These policies:

  • Alienate anyone with an actual emergency or reason they couldn’t show up
  • Aren’t a deterrent for anyone who didn’t show up for a malicious reason
  • So, what can you do?

Create an absence management policy that’s firm but allows for actual emergencies. For example, you can build an approach that factors in the number of offenses. You can also include ways that employees can make up for no-call/no-show days, like taking a shift for the person who helped them out. Eventually, this policy must address how to fire someone who continually misses work, but this shouldn’t be the first step.

7. Improve your organization’s off-boarding process and treat employees with dignity

You may have heard horror stories of what happens after someone puts in their 2 weeks notice. “Fine, don’t bother coming in tomorrow” can be considered passive-aggressive and erode trust with current and future staff members.

If other employees see that you don’t value notice, they won’t give notice. We all know that an employee quitting without notice can be detrimental. Instead of being upset when an employee decides to leave, learn what you can, and create a better environment for your employees.

Employment ghosting may be here to stay

You may have heard that employee ghosting is here to stay. This fact can be challenging because hiring is already tricky without ghosting. There will never be a way to prevent employee ghosting entirely. Unfortunately, there are many reasons this happens, and you can’t control all of them.

However, with some attention to detail, you can create policies and procedures that reduce the impact of ghosting on your company. By working to bolster each step of the employee lifecycle, you’ll create an environment that candidates, new hires, and employees will want to work at.

“Ghosting” By New Hires is Up: Here’s Why and What to Do About It

Here's what you need to know:

  • Surveys show that job seekers are ghosting at nearly every stage in the process
  • Other frequent ghosters include first-time job seekers, employees, and employers
  • Top reasons for job seekers ghosting include employers’ poor communication, disorganized scheduling of interviews, and more
  • There are several ways employers can help prevent job candidates from ghosting, including making business etiquette a priority, maintaining clear and frequent communication, letting candidates know what to expect, and more

What’s up with job seekers not showing up for the 1st day of work? The problem isn’t new. Reports on no-shows in the workplace started surfacing in 2018. But the phenomenon — called “ghosting” — is on the rise, approaching an all-time high, and signaling trouble for the workplace.

“Ghosting” began as an online dating term. It occurs when 1 person in the relationship stops communicating with the other. The disinterested party “vanishes” without a word, not even a goodbye.

Ghosting operates the same way in the workplace. The difference is that this trend is rooted in the recruiting and hiring process.

How does ghosting happen among job seekers?

The job-board giant Indeed surveyed more than 4,000 job seekers and about 900 employers in 2021 to gauge ghosting’s prevalence in recruiting. The poll showed that 28% of job seekers “vanished” from the recruiting process of 76% of employers.

For the survey respondents, the hiring process started out normally, with recruiters reaching out to select applicants. Beyond that, job seekers were ghosting at nearly every stage in the process.

Here’s how the data broke down for job seekers:

  • 50% failed to show up for a scheduled interview.
  • 46% stopped responding to recruiters’ and hiring managers’ inquiries.
  • 22% accepted the job offer but failed to show up the 1st day of work.
  • 19% accepted a verbal job offer but never signed the work agreement.

When did skipping appointments and ignoring messages become an acceptable way of landing a job? Common courtesy used to be the hallmark of good manners.

So, is ghosting the end of business etiquette? More data on ghosting by job seekers show an emerging pattern.

More statistics on ghosting among job seekers

The explosion in ghosting is real. Indeed found that:

  • Ghosting by job seekers in 2021 (28%) was up from 18% in 2019.
  • Just 4% of job seekers in the survey cited COVID-19 as their reason for ghosting, but nearly half of employers (48%) say ghosting has expanded since the pandemic emerged in 2021.
  • Job seekers are vanishing early in the hiring process, usually after the phone screening and initial interview.
  • One-quarter of employers surveyed said that new hires aren’t showing up on their 1st day of work.

Based on these findings, ghosting is becoming normalized in recruiting and hiring. The question is, why?

Which job applicants and employees are ghosting and why?

The demographics

A Spiceworks survey found that:

  • Women were less likely than men to ghost (68% v. 90%).
  • Senior-level workers, like managers and directors, were more likely to ghost (91%).
  • Vice presidents (93%) and C-suite executives (96%) were more likely than others to ghost when considering job opportunities.
  • However, Spiceworks noted that demographics can vary by company.
  • Other frequent ghosters include first-time job seekers, employees, and employers.

Employers’ part

Employment experts see signs that ghosting is becoming a habit of both applicants and employers. Ghosting is up among job seekers, but 77% of them in Indeed’s study said that employers have ghosted them.

More than half of job seekers (51%) think ghosting among employers is higher than ever.

A third of job seekers in a 2018 Clutch survey said that the employer who last rejected them didn’t communicate the bad news at all. And of those who did receive a rejection notice, 21% said the employer contacted them by phone and 13% by email.

In summarizing the survey results, Clutch said that employers who ghost job seekers are signaling that they approve of the behavior.

What are the top reasons for job seekers ghosting?

Low pay, conflicting job descriptions, and undesirable office locations are fueling some of the current ghosting activity, according to a Terra Staffing Group report.

In recent data from Landed, a resource platform for job seekers, the top reasons for ghosting are:

  • Mismatched job roles
  • Employers’ poor communication practices
  • Interviewers’ mistreatment of candidates
  • Overly personal inquiries
  • Disorganized scheduling of interviews

Company ratings

Other factors that drive ghosting are a company’s poor reputation, including 1-star online employee reviews on platforms like Google, Glassdoor, and Yelp; public relations disasters; and low Better Business Bureau ratings.

Job market influence

Job seekers also snub employers over better job offers and opportunities, both signs of a robust job market.

A 2022 New York Federal Reserve survey found that 3.7% of job seekers claimed to have received 4 job offers in the past 90 days — triple the rate of offers made when the pandemic started.

In a recent Spiceworks survey, more than half of the job hunters polled blamed their ghosting on the flood of job openings on the market.

Why do ghosting candidates hurt business?

Employers that ghost candidates create a recruiting experience that reflects poorly on their company’s culture. Discourtesy, real or imagined, harms a company’s brand.

In fact, 77% of applicants in a 2021 poll saw a correlation between how they’re treated in the recruitment process with how a company will likely treat them on the job.

Also, the recruitment process often is an applicant’s 1st glimpse of a company’s work environment. So, a good recruiting experience can make a candidate champion a company’s brand.

Monster says that companies run the risk of damaging employee morale and trust by ghosting a candidate referral. The referring party, often an employee, may feel embarrassed and betrayed by the candidate’s treatment and quit making referrals, one of employers’ most effective recruiting methods.

How can companies prevent job candidates from ghosting?

Employment experts agree that ghosting is becoming normalized in the recruiting and hiring process. But they also agree that employers can prevent job seekers from ghosting, starting with correcting their own behavior.

Here are anti-ghosting steps they recommend:

  • Make business etiquette a priority.
  • Create and maintain a culture founded on clear communication.
  • Ask candidates for preferred ways of reaching them (e.g., email, texts, messaging).
  • Keep communicating with applicants at every step in the recruiting process to prevent them from feeling ignored.
  • Don’t assume that an unresponsive applicant is ghosting. Technical glitches and malfunctions on either the company’s or the candidate’s end could be the problem.
  • Set up an automated process to manage communication with first-round candidates. Use candidate relationship management (CRM) software to request information, send out rejection notices, and handle other tasks in the early stages of the recruiting process.
  • Let candidates know what to expect in the next hiring phase and when they should expect it. This includes information about interviews, skills testing, and other requirements. Candidates should know what their prospects are at every stage in the recruiting process.
  • After interviews, let candidates know when they can expect to be contacted again, whether they’re still being considered for the job, and if they’re free to move onto the next phase of the hiring process.
  • Contact rejected candidates by phone or in person — rather than digitally — and explain the hiring decision. Give them constructive feedback and encourage them to apply for future openings. Remember that second-tier candidates may need to replace a first-choice candidate that didn’t work out.
  • To rescind a job offer, if necessary, contact the candidate personally, explain the situation in detail, and apologize for the inconvenience.

Ghosting in the workplace: The takeaway

Job seekers who ghost employers aren’t always getting away with it. Employers are keeping track of applicants who vanish during the recruiting process.

And there’s even some remorse among job seekers for ghosting. Two-thirds of employees (67%) in Spiceworks’ survey admitted being concerned about ghosting and its negative impact on their careers.

With employers tracking job seekers who ghost and job seekers having remorse about ghosting, business etiquette could make a comeback in the recruiting and hiring process.

Quiet Quitting: What It Is and How to Combat It

Here's what you need to know:

  • Quiet quitting is when employees do the bare minimum but are no longer invested in the outcome of their work
  • Spot quiet quitters by paying attention to their behavior
  • Combat quiet quitting by finding motivators and investing in corrective actions
  • 1 out of 5 of employees say they are currently quiet quitting. Happy employees are less likely to quiet quit

You may have heard of “quiet quitting.” It’s the choice to do only assigned work — and nothing more.

21% of working Americans say they are quiet quitters, according to an August 2022 survey of 1,000 workers.

According to NPR, some experts say quiet quitting is a misnomer for simply setting healthy workplace boundaries and refusing to be exploited. After years of doing extra work to make up for those who left during the Great Resignation, employees may simply be burnt out and tired. Other employees simply see no reason to continue to hustle for an employer due to other factors.

“To me, quietly quitting just comes back to setting your boundaries about what your outputs are going to look like at work,” a worker told CNBC.

So, what is Quiet Quitting really?

Quiet quitting is when employees do the bare minimum. They show up, they perform assigned, expected tasks, and then they go home. Without motivation to excel or exceed expectations, many employees are simply collecting paychecks. They do not want to get fired, but have no desire to do any extra work, stay late, and are possibly unmotivated to help the company meet goals.

If an employee is no longer invested in going the extra mile for the company, and is simply doing the basic work required, they may be quiet quitting.

Which employees are likely to Quiet Quit?

Employees often “check out” when they are unhappy in their job. If you have an employee who has had one of these common de-motivators happen to them, they may be quiet quitters:

  • Been asked to do too much and no longer willing to do so (silently setting boundaries)
  • Turned down for a promotion
  • Denied a raise
  • Re-assigned from a passion project
  • Hours changed unfavorably
  • Denied Work from Home (return to the office unwillingly)
  • Workload becoming too much of a burden to mentally handle

In addition, here are some other scenarios that could make an employee no longer be invested in their job:

  • Values no longer align with corporate policies
  • A takeover or buyout making employees fearful for their jobs long term
  • Manager or supervisor changes
  • General Burnout (poor leadership, general overwork)

What are the signs an employee is probably quiet quitting?

  • Coming in late
  • Leaving early
  • Showing no enthusiasm during team meetings
  • Not showing up for team meetings
  • Not participating in pulse surveys
  • Waiting to be asked to do tasks vs showing initiative
  • Not offering ideas or help
  • No interest in socializing with coworkers

In a nutshell, employees who are Quiet Quitting are not interested in their career path at the company they are in; they are in “survival mode” and simply biding time until their next gig, side hustle takes off, or retirement. For whatever reason, they no longer feel invested in the future of the company, brand, output, or department. When an employee has no desire for a positive outcome of their efforts, they simply mentally check out and perform tasks for pay.

How can I turn around an employee who I suspect is quiet quitting?

First step is to find out why. If you know their reason for lack of motivation, you can take corrective action and hopefully, help them return to a place where they are eager to contribute again. The goal is to find solutions to make your unhappy employee happy. Here are some reasons and actions to consider.

Reasons for quiet quitting and actions to take

  • Turned down for a promotion. Find out if there is another position in the company they could aspire to, and help them take the steps needed to gain it. Lay out a detailed plan for them to get them there.
  • Denied a raise. This one is tough in an economy where there are more job openings than workers. Is there a path to a raise, perhaps with more responsibility? How about a promised raise at a certain point in the future?
  • Re-assigned from passion project. If your employee was doing meaningful work and was pulled from it, the resulting listlessness can create a lack of motivation. Try explaining to them the value of the work they are now doing and how it helps the company and customers.
  • Hours changed unfavorably. If your employee had a great schedule that allowed for a great work-life balance and it was altered not in their favor, try to find a way to get that back for them.
  • Denied work from home. If company policy dictates a return to the office or reduction in a flexible work arrangement, see if there are ways to lighten the burden of this. Assisting with childcare costs, transportation costs, allowing them to alter their arrival times by a few hours to combat traffic and school schedules, or even offering 10 hours days with 3 day weekends could help show you care about their freedom and work-life balance.
  • Burnout. This is a common reason and one that should be taken very seriously. Great ways to combat burnout include:
    • Hire additional help for your teams – even freelance or temp help
    • Give employees additional time off to recharge
    • Institute “no after work communication” policies that protect time off
    • Provide free mental health resources and re-charge benefits
    • Make a long-term plan that includes the above permanently – a new hire to replace the temp within the next 3 months, for example
    • Offer bonuses and other monetary incentives to help relieve financial pressures
  • Workload shifts. Ask your employee if they feel the workload distribution amongst the team is fair. If they say no, ask them for a list of ways they feel it can be altered to better distribute the tasks to everyone’s advantage. Explain to them your reasons for the imbalance, so they feel vested in the decision and understand the reasons.
  • Values and corporate policy. There is a lot going on right now with Abortion rights, LGBTQ+IA and DEI. If your corporate policies are not inclusive and People-First, you will most likely continue to see Quiet Quitters more and more as time goes on. Examine your policies to be sure everyone is being treated equitably, fairly and are seen as individuals.
  • Corporate shifts. If there has been a recent merger, acquisition or takeover of your brand or team, employees will most likely feel a sense of loss and abandonment. The hard work they have been doing for years could suddenly be swallowed into a large corporate black hole, making them feel unmotivated and uninspired. Find ways to preserve the work they have done, the brand they loved and the teams they built as long as possible.
  • Manager or supervisor changes. When great leaders leave a team for whatever reason, employees can be left feeling sad and scared. If the new manager does not appear to have their best interests in mind, team members are not inspired to do their best work for them. Ask, either through surveys or directly, if they are happy with their manager and if not, find out specifics and address them. Poor managers can have an insidious effect on morale.

H3 Keep them happy

Whatever their reasons and whatever your reaction, it is important to be sure you truly understand how many of your employees are quiet quitting. If you determine whether you have a few outliers vs entire teams checking out, you will be able to combat it at a macro level to ensure you address the issues. Happy employees are essential to productivity and maintaining a quality workforce. Do what you can to protect yours.

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