The word ‘ghosting’ is a relatively new one in the working world, but unfortunately, what it describes isn’t. Ghosting means to be ignored, blanked and not responded to and is often used in the context of romantic relationships. But there are also many ‘ghosters’ in the business world. You might feel a bit confused by this so how do you know if you’ve been ghosted?
There are a few ways of being ghosted professionally. This could be a client or supplier not getting back to you or ignoring your calls. Have you ever been to an interview or a meeting then heard nothing despite following up? Or it could be that a person is doing this is a colleague or, worryingly, your boss. With hybrid working now being the norm, people aren’t physically with each other as much. This allows ghosting to be often easier in digital form – and we can read things into a lack of communication differently. It’s quite an effort to avoid someone physically in the same office as you, compared with ignoring their calls or emails.
People ghost for many reasons. But it is always worth remembering that they are displaying this behaviour because of their issues, not yours. They feel they would rather ignore and hope it/you goes away. This is instead of having a rational conversation, which says a lot about them.
Of course, there can be many factors at play here and often situations are multi-layered. If you’re on the receiving end of being ghosted, there’s no doubt it can be incredibly hurtful. It may also be a sign that they’re disorganised and don’t respect your time. Often it’s also very hard not to take personally.
So, what can you do? Here are a few tips for different situations.
If a client or supplier has suddenly stopped taking your calls
This can be tricky if money is involved. It’ll take on a completely different meaning if someone is ignoring you because they owe you money. You’ll need to reasonably pursue and if it’s obvious that they’re avoiding you, get some legal advice on next steps.
How many times do you chase?
However, what do you do if someone has just decided they don’t want to respond?
Firstly, ask yourself what a reasonable time is to check-in or chase? How many emails or calls do you think is adequate for the relationship? If it’s a new client or supplier, often just one more reminder will do and if no reply, call it a day. But if this is someone you have a professional relationship with, then this will need a bit more thinking.
A word of caution here is to not jump to conclusions. That certain someone may be ghosting you unintentionally. They may have personal issues going on or are overwhelmed so always remain polite and professional, even if you feel hurt.
OK, you’re dumped
I would advise that if you have explored the avenues you are comfortable with and now you want to draw a line under it, send them a final message. You can say something along the lines of: “I assume that your priorities have changed, so I won’t pursue this again.” Then you can wrap up with “Of course, if this isn’t the case and you’d like to pick up X again, do get in touch”. This then leaves the door open for them but closes it for you. This is important as you can move on and free up your headspace for something else. So how do you know if you’ve been ghosted? Well, you won’t hear back!
What if it’s a colleague who’s ignoring you?
This is a real kicker as it can be hugely hurtful when a colleague or colleagues decide to ignore or exclude you. Sadly, some people can carry schoolyard behaviour into their working life. You don’t have to accept this behaviour and if you are being bullied then seek HR advice. Again, it is worth remembering these are their issues, not yours, but that doesn’t stop it being hurtful.
So, if a person you work with is intentionally ignoring you, leaving you out or not inviting you for the afterwork drinks, there are a few things you can do.
Call them out on it
Book some time in with them and ask them what is going on. Though be prepared for denial and they may turn the situation on you. Remember, bullies are often narcissists and can be incredibly manipulative.
Ignore it and go your own way
If a person is willing to ignore you in your place of work, then I dare say they’re not really worth knowing. Know your worth and value and if it’s not impacting your work, ignore it and do your own thing. Don’t give it too much thought.
Speak to your boss
Again, this all depends on team dynamics and relationships. If your boss is the ‘ghoster’ or has elements of that behaviour, they are perhaps not the best go-to. Ask yourself if there is there anyone else in your organisation you could get advice from? Perhaps an ally who has seen this happen. They could help you to broach a difficult conversation or could back you up in a meeting.
Lead by example
People who behave this way will, sooner or later, reap the implications and their behaviour will catch up with them. As hard as it is, try to behave as you would like to be treated and lead by example. This should hopefully expose their behaviour for what it is and they’ll be the odd one out.
Finally, remember your worth. You cannot control others’ behaviour, but you can control yours.