- Wise Words -
Ain't Afraid of No Ghosts
by fergus mellon
Mercifully I have never had experience of online dating where in this brave new world it is common to be “ghosted”. To be ghosted is when the person you are dating cuts off all communication with you without explanation. They disappear. They become a ghost.
Even if we are lucky enough to have escaped ghosting in our personal lives, we are very likely to have experienced the “professional version” of it, especially if we are more than a couple of years into the workplace.
Ain’t no such thing as a Professional Ghost
Why did I put “professional version” in quotation marks? I did it because it is not professional to ghost those we work with. While it may be difficult to say to another person that you won’t be working with them, hiring them, signing an agreement with them etc., it is professional to let that other person know that you won’t be working with them rather than just cut off communication with an individual.
The need to let other professionals down gently are likely to be when workers are applying for a new job or when two businesses are seeking to work with each other on a partnership and are particularly likely where one side is selling to another. Instead of doing what is right, we can ignore the emails asking for a status and let calls go straight to voicemail.
Poof. We disappear and there is no response.
Don’t be afraid (of a difficult conversation)
It can feel easier to avoid that conversation where you have-to let another person down. By avoiding the conversation, you will not feel bad and will not get any negative response or awkward questions. It is though a short-term benefit while there are longer-term costs to you and your business’ reputation.
If it gets out (and in this connected world we should change the “if” to “when”) that you and your company string vendors or job seekers along only to drop them, do you think that others will want to do business with you? If you are the dominant player in the space, then maybe you find there is no real drop off in applications or the number of companies that want to do business with you but they may approach a relationship with you differently.
It may be that companies invest less in building a partnership with you if they know you are a ghost. They may give you poorer terms. If your company regularly ghosts job seekers, while the numbers of applicants stay high, the quality may drop or you may find it harder to close the great candidates as you have a reputation that is purely transactional and disrespectful.
So, if we agree we should be upfront in ending a professional relationship, does this mean that there is a long “how to” list for doing it?
To avoid being labeled as a ghost in your industry all you have-to do is pick up the phone or even just respond to the email asking for an update. If there is a candidate who has invested time in your business, at least give them then courtesy of a call to say that you won’t be moving forward. It really is that simple.
The only piece that gets tricky is if the other person who receives your upfront “thanks but no thanks” responds poorly. From my side, even this is something not to fear. If the person you are doing right by and saying you won’t move forward on a business relationship doesn’t “get it” you don’t need to feel bad. You are doing the right thing and in those instances where I have been surprised by the response, it has actually helped confirm that I made the right decision. If someone I wanted to partner with doesn’t see that I am trying to be respectful by closing-down a conversation then I know that I made the right decision!
You ain’t seen no ghost
A couple of final things. While ghosting is not professional, if you are on the other side of the table, don’t expect every unsolicited email you send to be answered. That is not ghosting, that is email overload combined with the fact that the mail was unsolicited. Just because you want to work with someone doesn’t mean they should open conversations with you!
The other piece is that if you have followed up once or twice, don’t feel that you are being ghosted. With the issues that professionals in business have with email and meeting overload it is likely that your email may go unnoticed or just relegated down your contact’s to do list. Don’t give up but instead vary your communication by alternating between email and phone. Only after repeated attempts (maybe stop at four so you don’t look like a stalker) is it worth dropping it.
Don’t scare the contact who delivers the “bad” news!
Finally, if someone who you have been in talks with, is up front with you about the project going no further, don’t make the conversation more difficult than it already is. Sure, ask for feedback but don’t try to reverse the decision and don’t start saying how you put in so much time on the discussions. The work you put in is normal and nothing is more frustrating than listening to complaints or pleading for special treatment from the person who is doing the right thing and ending (or maybe just pausing) the conversation.
Instead recognize that if you are being told goodbye, that the individual doing it is investing in you and values the relationship enough to put you out of your misery. Who knows they may even come back to you in the future if the other relationship doesn’t work out. Just make sure that when you do get dropped you don’t fall into a rebound professional relationship!