Ghosting isn't just endemic in the dating world: It's also a problem in the business world. Job applicants drop out of the hiring process without warning. New recruits are no-shows on their first day. Veteran employees simply stop showing up at work.
Flexibility, however, could keep employees and applicants feeling engaged and valued—while keeping the lines of communication open.
The ghosting problem is on the rise, and it's affecting companies everywhere, as The Wall Street Journal's Chip Cutter observes in a viral Linkedin article. "In fields ranging from food service to finance, recruiters and hiring managers say a tightening job market and a sustained labor shortage have contributed to a surge in professionals abruptly cutting off contact and turning silent," Cutter writes. "The practice is prolonging hiring, forcing companies to overhaul their processes, and tormenting recruiters, who find themselves under constant pressure."
Amanda Bradford, founder and CEO of The League, tells Cutter that ghosting has "almost become a new vocabulary" for younger generations who tend to believe "no response is a response." And in this strong job market, workers often hold all the cards. If a worker has a wealth of job options, they might bail on an employer without warning, especially if they are unaccustomed to business etiquette or uncomfortable with tough conversations. "Individuals just inherently don't like conflict or disappointing people," says Dawn Fay, district president at Robert Half International.
Alternatively, ghosts might just be modeling behavior they've observed throughout their careers. "I think they have learned it from the employers," speculates Peter Cappelli, director of Wharton's Center for Human Resources. "Employers were notorious for never getting back to people, and only letting them know what was going on if it turned out they wanted them to go to the next step."
In an Inc. story about employee ghosting, EQ Applied author Justin Bariso advises employers to combat the problem by being respectful—"When companies and recruiters treat people like people, and not like commodities that are a begrudging yet necessary expense, they can create an environment where people are more likely to respond in kind"—and transparent—"Work hard to maintain consistent and honest communication with the people you're dealing with."
Flexibility in invaluable on both counts. Granting flexibility to your employees is one of the best ways of showing them you respect them. It shows them that you value their life-work compatibility and that you trust them to get the work done no matter where or when it happens. It to your employees that their wellbeing is important to you, not just their output.
In fact, Werk's research showed that employees with flexibility are 20 percent more likely to feel their employer cares about them and treat them well. Employees without flex, meanwhile, are twice as likely to be dissatisfied at work, and half of employees would leave their job to find a more flexible alternative.
Meanwhile, flexibility dovetails with transparency. Employers who have incorporated a data-driven approach to flexibility into their company culture are well-advised to advertise their flex in hiring conversations, as flex is rapidly becoming job-seekers' top priority. This flexibility transparency could keep job applicants from going incommunicado and new recruits from bailing on their first day. It shows potential employees that they'll be respected and valued if they join the team.
And the transparency goes the other way, too: Structured flexibility empowers employees to have conversations with their employers about how they work best, how they maximize their productivity and focus, and how their personal lives impact their professional lives. This type of flexibility transparency could keep seasoned employees from dropping out of their jobs without notice since they're already well-versed in communicating their challenges to their bosses.
Without access to flexibility, employees and job applicants might not know how employers would react to the unique life-work needs that every worker has. They might feel unseen, unheard, and undervalued, and the prospect of ghosting might not seem any less disrespectful than their work conditions. Ghosting can be frustrating for employers, but inflexibility could be a dealbreaker for employees.