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So, You’ve Been Professionally Ghosted

This unsavory practice is starting to permeate into the professional world as well

Erica LaCentra headshot
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Erica LaCentra
Professionally ghosted

Picture this scenario. You attend an event and think you have hooked the perfect client. They are looking for your company’s exact services, they have a feasible timeline and are eager to start working with you, and everything feels like it’s falling perfectly into place. You exchange contact information, send a quick email onsite recapping your conversation and you both agree to discuss the next steps as soon as you have returned from the event.

You hold up your end of the bargain, but all you get in return is radio silence. A week goes by, and then two, and suddenly you’re left wondering if you completely misread the situation. No, you were probably not given phony contact information. More than likely, you’ve been professionally ghosted.

Spotting Ghosts

When most people hear the term “ghosting” they think about not getting a call back after a date but unfortunately, this unsavory practice is starting to permeate into the professional world as well. Like in the dating world, professional ghosting is when a client or professional connection stops responding to any attempts at communication without warning. While this used to be much more common in the world of job recruiting, think applicants not hearing back from companies they have applied for and recruiters getting ghosted by candidates, it is now becoming more commonplace throughout the professional world.

Professional “ghosts” take all forms and identifying offenders is one way to prevent yourself from falling victim to the disappointment that can stem from being professionally ghosted. As previously mentioned, the professional recruiting space deals with its fair share of ghosting. However, there are other ghosts to be mindful of as well such as the potential client or partner ghost. This is the ghostly prospect that seems like the perfect opportunity to close your next sale or develop a new partnership, where you put in a tremendous amount of effort to seal the deal, and in the eleventh hour, they seem to fall off the face of the earth. No amount of calling or email can seem to reach them, and all that work was for nothing.

There is also the ghosting co-worker or employee. This is a colleague that you may be working on a project with and suddenly they ignore your requests for updates and stop responding to any communication regarding deadlines on the project. It’s hard to say why it happens. Your colleague might want to take the project in another direction and isn’t sure how to tell you. They may get busy with other projects and don’t have the bandwidth to devote time or attention to this project anymore or they simply want to leave the workload on your shoulders, but whatever the reason may be, your co-worker has gone dark and you’re left trying to pick up the pieces.

While this practice may be happening more often, and ghosts may be lurking in your professional network, it does not make it any less jarring when you are on the receiving end. This sudden drop in communication out of the blue typically leaves the ghosted feeling confused, annoyed, hurt, and a whole host of other emotions, and for good reason.

Anytime time and effort are put into a professional or personal relationship only to be ignored without warning, there are bound to be bad feelings. So, what can you do when you think you are being ghosted to hopefully try to salvage communication, and if not, walk away with your feelings and your reputation intact?

Confronting Your Ghosts

If you start getting that sinking feeling that your emails and phone calls are falling on deaf ears and you’re being ghosted, it’s easy to immediately think the worst. However, the best thing to do is plan out a course of action to reach out to the person you think is ghosting you and give yourself a firm timeline where you will attempt outreach before you finally move on and cut your losses.

Try different forms of communication when you reach out to your “ghost” to give them the benefit of the doubt that maybe your email is getting lost in an overflowing inbox, or they missed your call because they were out of the office. Be concise in your communication in terms of why you’re reaching out and the best time they can follow up with you to ensure you can connect if they are indeed interested.

If at all possible, try to get face time with the individual that is ducking you. For example, if you normally email, try to set a video call with them. If it is a co-worker that has stopped answering you and you work in the same office, pop over to their desk for a face-to-face conversation. If after trying different methods of communication you still don’t hear back, this will make it very apparent that you’re being ghosted.

If that is indeed the case, your first instinct may be to bad-mouth the person that has left you high and dry and complain to everyone you know. However, it’s important to stay professional. This person may have shown their true colors but considering you never know who you may end up working with in the future or who that person is connected to. Be the bigger person and move forward without burning that bridge. You probably are not the first person they have ghosted and you probably won’t be the last and their reputation will eventually catch up with them. So do everything you can to walk away with your head held high.

Don’t Be Haunted

It’s often so hard to say for sure why someone professionally ghosts someone. Usually, it’s not even done to be cruel, but because they don’t want to cause confrontation, so they simply quietly remove themselves from the situation. Yes, it is frustrating when it happens to you, but it shouldn’t be taken personally.

Now that you know that ghosts may be lurking in your network, once they strike, stick to a plan, handle them with professionalism and if they continue to stay silent, move forward rather than dwelling on what could have been. It will save you a lot of time and aggravation so you can focus your efforts on the next big opportunity.

This article was originally published in the NMP Magazine September 2022 issue.
Erica LaCentra headshot
Erica LaCentra

Erica LaCentra is Chief Marketing Officer for RCN Capital.

Published on
Aug 31, 2022
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