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Professional Networking: Ghosts In The Machine
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Professional Networking: Ghosts In The Machine - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Ghosts In The Machine

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Ghosts In The Machine

If you’re older than 35, you might not be familiar with the term “ghosting,” but you’re probably familiar with the practice. Urban Dictionary’s most popular definition of ghosting is, “The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date. This is done in hopes that the ghostee will just get the hint and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them he/she is no longer interested.” If you’re quick to judge, one would find it difficult to blame you. When a relationship is over for one party, he or she owes it to the second to say so. Just vanishing is an insensitive, immature way to communicate the same thing, not to mention hurtful.

There’s been some conversation recently about ghosting in the working world, too. More than a few of us have walked away from a job without looking back or bothering to pick up our last paychecks. Some of us have been offered positions after an interview or two and simply not responded. If you count employers interviewing candidates and then never getting back in touch, some forms of professional ghosting go back decades.

Ghosting in these contexts is usually pretty clear cut: you know when you’re being ghosted, and it’s easy to tell what it means. But when it comes to maintaining connections in your professional network, is ghosting a thing? If it is, how okay is it?

It’s a tough call. The heart of a professional network is a mutual understanding that parties are resources for assistance, advice, or connections. You might go more than a year with no contact, but that friend with the connections to the position you’re interested in can usually be counted on at least for a referral. And when he or she reaches out to you after a similar amount of silence, you usually don’t think twice about picking up the phone on his or her behalf.

The trouble comes when those messages go unanswered. You’ve reached out to someone and received no response. Is your connection merely swamped with emails, or have you gone too far and assumed too much? Perhaps you’ve gone to this well too often, with not enough spoken thanks or any reciprocating in kind. Maybe you’re coming across as the taker in the relationship and haven’t done enough giving.

In these instances, ghosting accomplishes its purpose: your connection (or former connection) is unlikely to reach out to you again when met with stony silence. As the ghostee, you’ve certainly received the message that at least for how, this connection is a dead end. On the other hand, ghosting does nothing to improve the relationship or help a guilty party correct the error of his or ways. As we’ve advised before, sometimes a well-worded replay email can passively-aggressively make your feelings known: “It’s been so long since I’ve heard from you! As you may not know, I’ve taken on some new responsibilities, and I can’t help you right now with your request.”

If this were all strictly business, it would be an easier course. Simply stating that you don’t feel the relationship, as it currently exists, is solid enough for you to stake your reputation on, is businesslike and leaves little room for doubt. But with networks, the element of friendship creeps in, and now we have to deal with feelings, too. Consdier this a blessing and not a curse, and consider the complications it comes with also a blessing, because this element of friendship gives you the opportunity to strengthen your network.

If you are the ghostee, the time to repair damaged bridges is now. Pause for an appropriate amount of time, and send a note or make a phone call, saying you feel you’ve been a bad friend and would like to repair the relationship. If you are the potential ghoster, take the high road and rather than ceasing communication, express your concerns for the health of the relationship. You are not merely a list of phone numbers for others to access whenever they need something, and neither is the other party. If the other party sees things differently, suggest that you might still be friends, but maybe professional elements should be left out of your conversations. It’s unlikely the other party will deny the former in favor of the latter, so now you’re on your way to a better professional and personal relationship.

No matter how you look at it, ghosting is inappropriate behavior in any setting. Don’t be the person who apparently vanishes from the face of your professional network. The working world is too small for behaviors that sully other people’s images of you. Take a deep breath and fix what needs fixing, and don’t make it worse by avoiding the issue altogether.

Reference link:
Urban Dictionary: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=ghosting

 

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Professional Networking: Ghosts In The Machine - Executive Leadership Articles

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