Melanie Perry

I was visiting a senior living community recently and overheard a discussion lamenting the fact that a business office manager candidate who had accepted a job offer, completed the background check and agreed to start that day simply did not show up to start her new position. No call, no text, no email stating her reconsideration of the role. Just … nothing.

According to Merriam-Webster, this practice is known as “ghosting” and is defined as “the act or practice of abruptly cutting off all contact with someone … usually without explanation by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages, etc.”

It occurred to me how frequently this practice is happening these days from a variety of perspectives — both by job candidates and by hiring employers, in both senior living and beyond.

Examples of ghosting

Some examples of ghosting:

  • People agree to interview topics, times and locations, but then don’t appear for an in-person meeting or for virtual discussions. The interviewer has wasted that allocated time and has lost productivity.
  • Frontline and leadership hires don’t show up for first days of work despite accepting offers at the senior living community level. The hiring community now must go back to square one and either must restart its search process or revive communication with candidates formerly deemed less desirable than the hired one.
  • Corporate recruiters may court a candidate through several interviews, only to withdraw from communication just when the candidate is feeling positive about the chances of receiving an imminent job offer from the company. Candidates in such positions are left feeling confused and diminished, wondering what has happened or whether they did or said something wrong during the consideration process.

I’m not sure when ghosting became a trend and why the practice now is viewed by some as acceptable. Personally, I find it to be very unacceptable and would like to challenge those of us in the world of senior living and care to address and eliminate this frustrating, time- and resource-wasting trend.

Ramifications of ghosting

Ghosting has several implications for the job candidates and the companies that practice it:

  • When it comes to job candidates, an individual who fails to appear for an interview or start date without clear communication is burning a bridge with that employer and potentially risking being placed on a “do not hire” list for an entire multi-unit organization.
  • For employers, any corporate recruiter or hiring manager who ghosts candidates risks creating a poor impression for the company that is being represented by that person. In other words, ghosting bespeaks a poor corporate culture. A candidate who experiences ghosting probably will avoid applying to any future roles with this organization because — let’s face it — being on the receiving end of a ghosting situation is a blow to one’s ego.
  • Corporate ghosting also might leave a “bad taste in the mouth” of anyone who recommended a candidate to a particular company only to learn that the firm ghosted that person. Logically, it would make someone hesitant to ever refer again, not wanting to set a friend/acquaintance/professional colleague up for a disappointment.
  • It’s just rude. Ghosting is the antithesis of the caring, compassionate philosophies espoused by most senior living organizations.
  • For companies that regularly engage in ghosting practices, the end result could be creating a shallower pool of potentially great candidates for various roles in the senior living world.

We need to do better

As organizations made up of people caring for people, senior living needs to be better than this. We can’t necessarily control the actions of applicants, but we can expect certain behavior of those who represent our organizations in their work.

To simply dismiss others through a removal of attentiveness, responsiveness or human consideration would be behavior that none of us would view as acceptable toward our residents or their families within senior living communities. Why, then, do we find it acceptable to treat others in such a manner? How do we reconcile this behavior with our mission statements and values, which are rich with words such as person-centered, respect, compassion and empathy?

To truly show ourselves in the light of our collective mission of service, we need to start with our initial interactions. Even if it is inconvenient or, at times, awkward, we need to restore civility and professional courtesy to all areas of our professional practices.

If you’re a job candidate, inform the appropriate person at the hiring organization that you’ve chosen another work option.

If you’re a hiring manager or human resources professional, make the phone call or send an email communicating to the job candidate that another person has been selected for the role and, if true, that the company values the person’s skills and will keep the resume on file for future opportunities. End the process with dignity while providing hope. Doing so is consistent with our efforts to be care providers.

Let’s endeavor to be better than the trend.

Melanie Perry, MS, CDP, CADDCT, CMDCP, is home office memory care coordinator for Primrose Retirement Communities, Aberdeen, SD.

The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living guest column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.

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