Aussie Businesses Struggle To Combat 'Ghosting' In The Workplace

Until recently, ghosting was almost exclusively used to refer to one person disappearing from a romantic relationship -- but the act has made the leap from the bedroom to the boardroom.

It can happen at any time -- during the interview process, after a hiring, or even after someone has started on the job.

'Ghosting' in the workplace is a new form of breakup technique, but employers are the ones getting the cold shoulder.

"Oh gee, it's just happened so many times, I don't even know where to start. They just disappear," business owner Mina Iacono told 10 daily.

Iacono's family run a popular cafe in Sydney's inner-west.

"There have been staff members who get the job, after they have done a trial, they get rostered on and then they just don't turn up never to be heard from again," she said.

One waiter just "dropped off the face of the earth," she added.

"And only weeks later, there was a sighting of him on social media so we knew he was OK. For a moment we thought he was dead."

Iacano 's family run cafe in Sydney inner west. IMAGE: supplied

She says it's "definitely a millennial thing" and has gotten worse in the past five years.

"We've seen some pretty crazy things," founder of Glow Up Careers, Yvonne Kelly said. Kelly has worked in recruitment for two decades and is also a career coach for young Australians.

In a classic ghosting case, a woman in her 20s stopped showing up to work for a few days, so Kelly called her parents to try and track her down.

"We thought something terrible had happened and ended up going to her house. We could hear she was inside but she didn't come out. Turns out she had had a big weekend," she said.

While there is no local data or research to document its prevalence in Australia, both Kelly and Iacono said in their experience the rise has happened over the past five years.

This week, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago noted some employers had experienced difficulties filling positions at all skill levels.

“A number of contacts said that they had been ‘ghosted’, a situation in which a worker stops coming to work without notice and then is impossible to contact,” it noted in this month’s Beige Book, which tracks employment trends.

Why Is It Happening?

In a perverse way, ghosting is a positive sign of a strong economy and a strong labor market. Where once it was business and companies ignoring or snubbing, the world has flipped.

'We are finding it hard to present enough candidates for job vacancies," Kelly said.

Getty Images.

Australia’s unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since April 2012.

"They know if they walk out of our cafe, they can walk into another cafe and get a job as a barista the next day," Iacono said.

"It can have a terrible effect on the business. If its a chef for example who just ghosts us, it can easily take a month to find and train another suitable chef."

How Can You Combat Ghosting?

Kelly says it's about managing high expectations and low resilience.

"A lot of millennials haven't been through a recession, they haven't been knocked back from several jobs in a row," said Kelly.

A recent survey by jobs website SEEK found that 34 percent of Australians expect to earn more than $83,000 in their first career job -- signaling a likely disparity between expectations and reality.

Kelly's company also provides free coaching to young refugees in the workplace.

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"They are far more resilient as many have had to endure real hardships. We find that once they are in the workplace, their colleagues turn to them to help problem solve."

She suggests employers work on providing an open and supportive culture, and perhaps one that is socially responsible.

"A lot of companies can do better to engage their younger staff more by doing more social good. Young people are really passionate about social issues."

Extra mental health and well-being services could also be useful.

The SEEK survey also found half of millennials say they have hidden a part of who they are at work, compared to just 15 percent of Baby Boomers.

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Featured image: Getty Images