I belong to an online group for freelancers in the ad industry. It’s on Facebook. Yesterday morning someone posted about a recent experience she had.
She’d been talking with someone about possibly doing some work together and suddenly the conversation just stopped. No reason, no explanation, no nothing. She wanted to know if “ghosting” is common in the industry — she’s spent a lot of time working in Europe, where apparently business is conducted differently.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen posts like this. It’s an all-too-common occurrence. And I’ve got to tell you, I’ve experienced it myself, more times than I care to think about.
It may be called ghosting in 2019, but what it really is, is rude. And there was a time when it wouldn’t have been tolerated. And it shouldn’t be now.
When did this become okay? When did it become routine? When did it become business as usual?
Call me old fashioned, but there are no circumstances under which I think it’s okay. Being busy isn’t an excuse. Changing your mind isn’t an excuse. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the idea, the quote is too high, the job got canceled or the candidate isn’t right for the job.
Leaving people hanging is rude and disrespectful.
Whoever is on the other end of the interaction is entitled to the courtesy of a response. A phone call, an email, a letter, a form letter, a text — it doesn’t matter. Something — so they are not left wondering what is going on, what they might have done wrong or differently, what does or doesn’t come next, whatever. So they can move on and, incidentally, so they can walk away with a good impression of you — which should matter to you. Because you never know, you may want or need something from them some day.
Silence is not an acceptable response.
Frank Bruni is a New York Times columnist. I read his column religiously and also subscribe to his newsletter. I love his writing. Last week he wrote something that really resonated with me and I sent him an email, never expecting to hear back. Well, it didn’t take a half-hour and an email from him, thanking me, popped into my inbox. I was shocked. I still can’t get over it.
There is no doubt in my mind that Frank Bruni is busier and has more people contacting him than anyone reading this blog or, for that matter, most of the people who are guilty of doing exactly what I’m writing about. Yet he found the time to acknowledge my email. Can he do that all the time? No, and no one writing him should expect it. I surely didn’t. But the fact that he does it at all speaks volumes about his character — and his manners.
As for all of you who think it doesn’t matter if you don’t answer your phone even when you’re there, routinely ignore emails and think it’s perfectly acceptable to blow people off without a word of explanation, I have this to say:
We live in unstable times. Business is precarious. I don’t know of any business — in or outside of advertising enjoying remarkable success right now. One of these days you could find yourselves on the wrong side of a pink slip. How will you feel if your calls or emails or letters or job applications are ignored? How will you feel if you pitch a piece of business or submit a quote and hear nothing back?
Yes, it could happen. After all, you do it.