Professional Ghosting:  What?  How?  Why?  It Happens!

Ghosting.

You’ve probably heard of it or even experienced it in personal relationships as it seems to happen frequently to many of us.  However, it also happens in many business situations.  Instead of a breakup, someone you’ve been in a business relationship with suddenly is MIA – they “ghost” you!  Not only does it happen in the dating and friendship realm but it also happens within other aspects of our lives with business clients, suppliers, job searches, and even contractors for personal business.  Wikipedia explains ghosting in broader terms as the following.

Ghosting is a colloquial term used to describe the practice of ceasing all communication and contact with a partner, friend, or similar individual without any apparent warning or justification and subsequently ignoring any attempts to reach out or communicate made by said partner,  friend or individual. 

I want to focus on professional ghosting especially in the events industry which I find funny as we have always been an industry of relationships.  Or so I thought.  Professional “ghosting” is when a business contact suddenly becomes unresponsive to all forms of communication, without explanation.  I reached out to several industry planners and suppliers.  Several, who are part of the SPIN (Senior Planners Industry Network) Facebook  group, responded to me and I was amazed at how prevalent this is.  So, I began to wonder why does this happen.

We have become a society that relies heavily on social media and we find it easy to hide behind our computers, phones, etc.  One planner thinks we tend to behave differently when not “conversing” face to face.

Others indicated that everyone is so bogged down with emails and keeping up with their daily tasks, that return calls and emails fall by the wayside.

Another supplier who puts on events says that many RSVP for his events and then no show.  He even sends out correspondence confirming and asking that if they can’t make it to reply to the email YES or NO.  How easy is that?  But a good percentage ignore it.  This costs him financially as he plans for their attendance and subsequently turns away others who want to attend.  I am baffled by the lack of consideration and downright rudeness when it comes to all of this.

I have concluded that avoidance is so easy and many of us just don’t like to deliver bad or disappointing news, so we totally avoid it.  Or, we let our busy lives interfere with responding, changing a RSVP or begging forgiveness for not showing or reaching out.  Rather than being upfront and honest in an email, text or even a voice message, many seem to avoid all forms of communication, ignoring or ghosting us. Professional courtesy seems to have lost its way in many facets of business.

In my research I found that it is not just limited domestically but it also happens internationally.  I asked several how it makes them feel as I know how it makes me feel.  Most agreed that being ghosted leaves one feeling confused, disappointed, and most of all, frustrated.  Then the awful feeling of “what did I do wrong” creeps in, deflating our egos and gnawing at us.  This really is perplexing, when in my mind, it would be so simple to craft a piece of communication indicating that they have decided to move in a different direction or something to that affect.  Or, even why not make something up.  Personally, I’d rather hear something than nothing.

Currently I work consulting and contract jobs.  Previously I worked with a planner for a few years on their annual show.  I reached out about 6 months prior to the show as I had not received my usual contract.  After several attempts with calls and emails, I realized I was being ghosted.  I was baffled and so taken off guard.  This is someone I knew. Naturally, I wondered if my performance was not as expected or what I had done wrong.  I’d like to know so I could improve it, if not with them, perhaps the feedback would be helpful with other programs that I work.  Again, I think it was easy for this planner to avoid it and ignore me, letting me wonder the reason I wasn’t asked back.  It is sad that we all can’t have adult conversations.  I’m a big girl and can accept rejection and honest feedback.  I am not alone on this and those I spoke with have had similar experiences.  Some even have had relationships with folks for years and then suddenly are ghosted.

Others indicated that potential clients seemed very interested in working with them and ignored the proposal and follow up contact.  Then the question is why did they seem interested?  Others send RFPs out to suppliers with an initial indication of interest and then nothing.   Most planners and suppliers that I talked with agree that reaching out to these ghosters stops after 3 attempts and it is time to move on.

All in all, this is very perplexing and some even wondered if it is a generational thing.  I am not convinced on that.  I believe it is due to a culmination of things.  It is easy to be aloof and avoid contact, especially if it is not good news.  Also, so many anymore are inundated with correspondence (overflowing email inboxes) and it takes time to weed through it.  Social media adds another layer.  I still don’t think it is right or very courteous.  As I said, we are supposed to be the industry of relationships and we seem to be moving away from that and not tending the garden of those existing and potential relationships.  I ask that all of us try to be better about our professional relationships and how we relate to one another.

Julie

Julie Martinez, CMP, CMM is a meeting, event and incentive planning specialist providing consulting, strategic planning and on-site management.  She is a member and contributor of I-Meet, the online business community for people who plan meetings and events. Please connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her Twitter.

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