A few years ago, a friend of mine was dating a woman who suddenly stopped returning his phone calls and responding to his texts.
“I’ve been ghosted,” he said.
It was the first time I’d heard the term, but it certainly seemed apt. He was saying she had basically disappeared into thin air, like a ghost. Or maybe he was suggesting that, to her, he had all but ceased to exist. Either way, the analogy holds.
Ghosting may occasionally be called for in personal relationships, as in the case of a stalker. But it’s never appropriate in professional relationships. Unfortunately, it has become all too common, as two examples from my own recent experience illustrate.
A couple of weeks ago, I was communicating by text message with a tradesperson who (I thought) was going to do some work on my house. We went back and forth for several days about the job, what it would cost, and his schedule.
Then he just stopped returning my texts. I hadn’t said anything to upset him. There was no dispute over price or anything else. Everything up to that point had been perfectly pleasant. He just ghosted me for no apparent reason.
I’m guessing his “reason” was that he’s busy and either didn’t want to do the job or didn’t want to do it at that price. Fine. I’ll find somebody else.
Just have the professionalism — the common courtesy — to let me know. I understand you’re busy — so am I, by the way — but you’re not too busy to spend 30 seconds sending a text.
It may be easier just to ignore the whole thing — to ignore ME — rather than risk telling me something you think I might not want to hear. But it’s incredibly rude and unprofessional.
In another, ongoing situation, I’ve been working with someone in the book business for well over a year. It began as a mutually beneficial arrangement: I sought out his services, but he also desired my business.
Initially, the relationship worked fine. We communicated infrequently but regularly. I asked him questions, which he answered, and he gave me advice, which I mostly followed. We had, essentially, a partnership, at least in regard to this particular project.
Then, one day, he simply stopped answering my emails. Nor can I get through to him on the phone (he has layers of underlings). He completely ghosted me. Worse, the project is now languishing in limbo.
The lesson, for those paying attention, is this: In professional relationships, communication is key, whether positive or not. If you can’t work with someone anymore, or don’t want to, or the previous arrangement is no longer acceptable, say so. Don’t just ghost people.
Because eventually, if you get a reputation as a ghoster, you will become the ghostee — the one no one can see, no matter how hard you try to get their attention.