No, ghosting is not an infestation of paranormal beings in your office.
The term originated in the dating world to describe a common phenomenon that too affects many of us.
Think of all of the dates you’ve been on. You can probably call to mind at least one experience where you thought everything was going great with this person. You get butterflies thinking about them and look forward to the next date. Heck, maybe you’re even trying out their last name on yours… or what your wedding will look like… your kids…
But wait. They haven’t even replied to your text from your last date!
You hold off sending another text for a day or two so you don’t look too needy, then you message them again, maybe this time throwing in a question.
My friend, you were ghosted.
Ghosting is Everywhere
While ghosting is most commonly seen in the dating world, it happens all the time in many different areas of our lives.
And this is mainly due to technology. In terms of dating, apps like Tinder help you meet total strangers that have no tie
to your social life. This makes it really easy for them to ghost you because the chances are you won’t ever run into them again. These people are generally cowards who don’t want to just tell you they simply aren’t interested.
But this really isn’t a new thing. Even before phones, people would make verbal plans for dates then stand the other person up because they don’t want to admit to them they’re not feeling the attraction.
It’s just as bad outside the dating world too. All the time, people reach out to others hoping for a response but then… crickets. Nothing in return. And especially through texting and other online messaging platforms. It’s gotten too easy not to reply to people when you simply don’t feel like it.
Ghosting at Work
The number one place this ghosting trend is picking up traction is in the workplace. And in particular, with feedback.
So many workers are realizing the benefits of feedback and are specifically seeking it out. Many seek it after not landing a job following an interview, so they can know what to focus on in the future. Others are looking for feedback after a presentation or proposal so they can make sure they covered everything others were hoping for.
All too often, unfortunately, these requests are gone unacknowledged.
Ghosting in the workplace occurs for one of three reasons:
1. People are scared of confrontation!
Maybe the feedback provider in question simply doesn’t have something nice to say (see: dating rejection) and don’t want to have to deal with hurting the emotions of the other person. But there are ways of giving feedback without making people hate you.
What these people need to realize is that negative feedback is in fact very beneficial and actually wanted. In a survey by Zenger and Folkman, 92% of respondents agreed with the assertion, “Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.” Don’t be the reason your company isn’t continuously improving.
2. They think it won’t matter
So many people believe that feedback tends to fall on deaf ears. They think it’s useless if it’s all positive, or think the person wouldn’t actually benefit from what they have to say.
For example, if a team leader just gave a presentation to a group of 10 of their team members and asked for feedback after, the intern in the room might not think their insights would be valuable or taken to heart.
This is hogwash.
Even if it’s as simple as giving a 5-star rating, as long as it’s honest, this person still gets some sort of signal that they’re on the right track. In fact, 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized.
And if you have something to criticize, even better (see above)! Let them know what areas they can improve on for next time.
3. People have no time for it/have better things to do
I’m sorry, but feedback is really effortless. Especially with new continuous feedback solutions, it’s easy to give a quick comment or rating on a skill to a fellow employee or manager, just to keep track of things.
So how can we prevent this?
If you’re being ghosted, the worst thing you could do is ignore it. Instead, confront the ghost and let them know that yes, you still want that feedback. Push them! Don’t let them get away with it.
If you are a manger witnessing someone else being ghosted, use your authority to nudge the ghost. Highlight the benefits of providing feedback, and give them praise once they’ve done so – this will reinforce the positive behaviour.
If you’re a ghost, well then I’m glad you recognize it because the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Now you might not have a higher power to give you strength, but if you care about your organization, you definitely have a larger-scale reason to give feedback.
Even if you’re not the CEO of the company, giving feedback to any coworker can help everyone improve for the better. If you think Brenda from marketing cannot for the life of her keep her presentations concise and relevant, don’t think that doesn’t affect your team’s functioning. If you tell her she needs to better organize her presentations, you’re not only helping to manage your team’s time, but also providing an opportunity for Brenda to develop her skills. Your team will be more productive, and Brenda will be a more valuable team member.
If you really really really don’t want to give feedback, TELL THE PERSON. Don’t just leave them hanging. Tell them the truth about why you don’t want to. But realistically, if you have the time to tell them no, you have the time to give them some sort of feedback, even if it’s just “good job.”
Do you have an experience with ghosting? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet at us at @therealWIRL.