Ghosts of Etiquette Past


There is a new phenomenon emerging in the business world, and it is a disconcerting one. “Ghosting”, a term associated with someone seemingly disappearing into the night, ignoring calls, emails, and texts has been lurking in relationship-land for quite some time. Many people find it easier to “ghost” someone, than to confront them to end a relationship. While it isn’t exactly Emily Post sanctioned in life, it is beyond rude in business situations.

We’re all a little guilty of ignoring email outreach from strangers, often trying to sell us their products and services, or looking for donations. But what about someone who opens up a dialogue, inquires about your services, and then disappears without the courtesty of “thanks but no thanks” email? Recruiters and HR execs have been pulling this for years, leaving the job seeker hanging waiting for feedback from interviews, or trying to schedule appointments. It seems that this unprofessional behavior has expanded to include clients, media and collaborators as well.

As a very small business owner, this practice is becoming debilitating. Setting aside time for projects that never materialize, sending free samples, and writing detailed proposals are part of being in the game. People not having the courtesy to let you know their plans have changed or that they are taking another direction are not only inconsiderate, they are impacting the bottom line.

One week it is the blogger who is in constant communication about the feature they want to do on your business, and then are never heard from again after their requested goodies arrive. The next week it is someone who books phone meetings and never calls at the specified time. It is the person who recieves the detailed proposal they asked for, and never responds. It is the project that needs to be done yesterday, and days go by without the details being finalized. Or the big corporation that offers social media exposure in exchange for a shout out on the blog and then doesn’t come through. I could go on, and on, but I think you get the point.

When did we become a society that perpetuates the convenience of being rude? When did the business world become so unprofessional? Is it really that much easier to fade into the abyss, than to hit reply, and say thank you, or let others know you are not interested so they don’t invest anymore time and resources on your behalf?

While I have had many, many positive experiences, it is the negative or downright agonizing ones that seem to be most memorable. I worry that I will become so jaded  that I will miss out on a great opportunity, because I have had so many requests backfire that I might choose to sit the next one out.

With all the convenient tools of communication that we have now, and the amount of heads buried in them, it is mind boggling that a quick text to rsvp to an event, follow up on information, or reply to an inquiry is beyond many people’s capacity.

So here is our plea: Next time you feel like saying “pass,” please, just go ahead and say it! Tell me you aren’t interested, tell me you can’t make it, but don’t ghost me. Ghosts can be friendly, and ghosts can be scary. Please, don’t be a ghost.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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