Low unemployment rates and tight job markets are causing a rising employment trend—ghosting—a silent exit where employees stop showing up. They leave work one day with no formal resignation or notice and are impossible to contact.
Ghosting is not unfamiliar to those in service and lower-wage industries. What’s new is the way it is making its way into the white collar world, with reports of employees of all kinds, entry-level to executive, choosing the silent exit.
Who are employees that ghost? What are their motives and how can you avoid employee ghosting? What do you do when your employee decides to ghost you? Read on to learn more about the frustrating new trend of employee ghosting and how you can prevent or mitigate its impacts on your company.
What type of employees are ghosting?
Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not just younger employees that ghost. With more job openings than job seekers, the job market may lure younger workers chasing better opportunity. Or, they simply get bored and are looking for a quick way out. Older employees typically ghost employers because they don’t feel appreciated or are unhappy with their duties, pay, or benefits (Source).
There is no-one-size-fits-all approach to identifying an employee who will ghost. It can be the people that you least expect, that silently exit.
“We had a new coworker at my old job who was highly motivated during training and got along with the team,” recalls Accounts Payable Clerk Kayleen Kobashigawa. “Then suddenly she started showing up later and later every day. Until one day we didn’t see her at all.”
Her explanation? “It just wasn’t her thing.”
Why are employees ghosting employers?
It’s a good time to be an employee right now. With the market being in jobseekers’ favor, people ghost employers for a variety of reasons:
- To avoid an uncomfortable situation. Employees choose the easy way out rather than having to start an uncomfortable conversation with a manager or recruiter.
- To get out of a high-turnover workplace. If an employee gets the feeling that his coworkers are being let go left and right, they are less likely to feel guilty for ghosting. Turnover was high anyway, right?
- They were going to quit anyway, and didn’t want to lose money. Employees who are planning to quit may worry that they will get let go as soon as they give notice, thus losing out on two weeks’ worth of pay.
- To get out of a toxic work environment. Individuals who experience conflict or bullying at work might lose trust in their management and use ghosting as an exit strategy.
- They see no room for growth. Employees might feel like they have plateaued in their position if there are no new projects, responsibilities, or training opportunities.
- They don’t feel valued. Employees choose to ghost if they don’t feel valued or respected at work. This might be the case when they are promised something that never comes true, for example a promotion that never happened.
- They are seeking better opportunities. Better pay, benefits, company culture, work hours, location—all are reasons an employee may ghost. We even have reports of people ghosting after getting a time off request denied, just so they could go on vacation.
How can you avoid employee ghosting?
If an employee just ghosted you, it’s usually too late to do anything about it. But there are some preventative measures you can take to keep your workforce happy and retain them for the long haul.
Look for signs that an employee is about to quit
There are clear warning signs that an employee is about to quit. Are they disinterested and less productive at work? Experiencing major life changes? Or uneasy discussing long-term projects? Be sure to check in with your employee and verify what is causing the dissatisfaction.
Avoid employee ghosting by building strong relationships and focusing on employee retention.
“Really get to know your employees. Find out what truly motivates them by having frequent one-on-one conversations,” advises Director of HR Michele Kauinui. “Some employees might be motivated by compensation, while others value their work-life balance.”
Employees that feel valued and engaged are less likely to burn bridges and leave. After all, retaining quality employees—by offering competitive pay, benefits, growth opportunities, and heartfelt appreciation—is cheaper than hiring new ones.
Guarantee incentives based on seniority
Another way to get your employees to stay is by guaranteeing incentives based on seniority. This could be a raise in pay, benefits, or perks. Also, practice what you preach and always keep your promises. Not aligning your actions with your words can easily disgruntle employees who might seek out different opportunities without feeling guilty for leaving your company behind.
Incentivize employees to give a courtesy notice
Giving a two weeks’ notice is a suggestion for basic professionalism and courtesy, but it is not legally binding and there are no repercussions for non-compliance.
If ghosting is repeatedly affecting your business, you may consider setting up incentives for giving a two weeks’ notice before terminating employment, such as receiving unused vacation or sick days, or other benefit incentives.
What to do when your employee ghosts?
Your employee didn’t show up to their scheduled shift, there was no previous notice and you have had no luck reaching them. What now?
First of all, you want to give them the benefit of the doubt. They could be missing work for a variety of reasons such as personal emergencies or health issues. Always consider the situation on a case-by-case basis.
Several days go by and you still haven’t heard a word? Chances are, you just got ghosted. In this instance, move on! Employee ghosting could be an indicator for future negative behavior, so cut your losses and work on damage control:
- Be transparent with your staff. Let them know that their coworker left the company and invite them to refer any questions to you. Remember to always be respectful and leave personal opinions or emotions out of the explanation.
- Transfer duties and cross-train your employees. Develop a list of duties that need to be picked up and ensure that your staff understands what will be expected of them in the coming weeks.
- Hire temp employees. If your current staff doesn’t have the bandwidth to pick up any duties, consider teaming up with a staffing agency to hire temporary workers. Temps will assist in tying up loose ends until you find a replacement.
- Streamline your hiring and onboarding process. Streamline your hiring process and avoid common recruiting mistakes to find a replacement quickly. Also, make sure your retention strategy starts with the onboarding process; retain and engage new employees from the get-go.
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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should first consult their attorney, accountant or adviser before acting upon any information in this article.