The Woes of Full Employment...
Recently, I ran across a post on Linked In, noting an uptick in candidates for employment and already employed workers ghosting their employers or would-be employers. Bernie Reifkind, the author of the article is a recruiting executive in the greater Los Angeles area. It was a short post, comparatively, decried the inherent discourtesy and lack of professionalism in bailing on a scheduled interview, or simply bailing on work without warning after employed. A Washington Post article recently appeared, noting the same phenomenon.
The Urban Dictionary defines ghosting as “cutting off all communications with friends, or a date with no warning.” (I’ve paraphrased for brevity) Let me get my position out up-front. No, I don’t approve, not that my opinion matters.
As Dr. Jennifer Vilhauer points out in her Psychology Today article, “The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.”
We could debate whether Dr. Vilhauer’s observation is true for all values, not to mention whether we think employees should love their employers, but for now, let’s just acknowledge whether it’s an individual or an organization, there’s an inherent wrong in “ghosting.”
And at an intuitive level, I think most of us would agree with Dr. Vilhauer, at least as it relates to personal matters. What’s worse than our cries of joy/elation or tears of disappointment/sorrow being greeted with stony silence? Zap! You don’t exist.
In the Linked In post to which I referred, earlier Bernie ended with the question; “Am I missing something?” I was moved to respond because it folds into one of the themes in West of Tomorrow. There are character limitations on Linked In, so I was obliged to edit it down. My extended response follows here.
The Fading Phenomenon
No, Bernie you’re not missing something, we all have. This is a collective phenomenon in the creation of which virtually all of us have participated. From a business perspective, ghosting is the logical result of decades of misuse of the men and women to whom in large measure companies owe their success. Most everyone with a Linked In profile has been a corporate drone, at some point in their career or another…or has cynically used corporate drones for their own professional purposes.
I don’t make this observation pejoratively. It’s what we were taught by the “higher-ups” in our organization, themselves cowtowing to the money/power junkies cynically running a game they patiently rigged to their advantage over decades. Merciless rounds of down-sizing, right-sizing, re-engineering, reorganizing all in the name of wringing another fractional percentage out of margins while executive salaries spiraled through the overhead. At some point, most people got the non-verbal message we were sending collectively. YOU DON’T MATTER. What you do for us matters.
What’s artfully camouflaged in both Mr. Reifkind’s post and many of the responses to it is the role organizations have played in legitimizing ghosting. To be clear, ghosting isn’t new and it isn’t an organizational phenomenon. Most of us have had people drop out of our lives without warning. But the ghosting of organizations is relatively new. In my opinion, part of employees’ (and prospective employees’) comfort with the practice is the logical result of long-term, organizational power plays at employees’ expense. Organizations have reaped what they’ve sown.
In West of Tomorrow, one of the book’s recurring themes is the fusion of the sweeping paradigm shifts of our age greed, both personal and organizational. Repeatedly, we see examples of men and women taking opportunistic advantage of situations proximal to those changes, cynically and in ways that are hard to justify, ethically. In one passage, the protagonist, (Clay Conover) discusses with an old friend and former professor, Dr. Mastrovik.
In the conversation above, Clay confronts his own, unconscious role in perpetuating a system in which the little guy’s role is downplayed and the (hypothetically) more important powers that be remain the litmus test of both contribution & legitimacy. But wherever we are in the organizational ladder, if we’re honest with ourselves, most of us recognize we ride to victory on the collective efforts of our brothers and sisters working toward the same goals. The rewards systems do not reward us equally, and perhaps that’s okay.
But from time to time, we should be asking ourselves if it’s (at least) equitable. If it isn’t we should not be surprised when our treatment of our employees come back haunt us. What do you think and what has been your role in promoting a sustainable, reward system within your own organization?