Ghosting People Professionally: How to Lose Friends and Alienate Co-workers

“Ghosting” is a term that has gained popular widespread use in recent years to describe the act of suddenly cutting off all communication with someone, usually without explanation. While it may be tempting to ghost someone you no longer wish to communicate with, it is never a good idea to ghost people professionally.

Ghosting in the workplace can have serious consequences, including damaging your reputation, harming your relationships with co-workers and clients alike, and potentially costing you future business opportunities. In this blog post, we’ll explore why ghosting people professionally is a bad move, and we’ll provide some useful tips on how to handle difficult situations with some humour and grace.

A potted history of “Ghosting”:

Ghosting may seem like a modern occurrence, but the truth is that people have been disappearing without explanation for centuries. We’ll take a humorous look at the history of ghosting people professionally, from ancient times to the present day below.

Ancient Times: The Silent Treatment

The ancient Greeks were no strangers to ghosting. In fact, they had a term for it, it was called: ostracism. This practice involved banishing someone from the city for a period of ten years, without any explanation or justification. It was a form of punishment that was used to rid the city of unpopular or powerful individuals.

But the Greeks weren’t the only ones to use silent treatment as a means of punishment or control. In ancient China, the emperor would sometimes execute officials or advisors without explanation, leaving their families and colleagues to wonder what had happened.

Middle Ages: The Vanishing Act

During the Middle Ages, people would often disappear without a trace. This was especially true for travellers or merchants, who would sometimes vanish on the road, leaving behind their belongings and loved ones. It was a dangerous time, and it was easy for someone to fall victim to highwaymen, bandits, or other dangers, (Trolls under bridges etc).

But disappearing was also a way for people to escape their debts or obligations. In fact, the term “skedaddle” comes from the Scottish word “skedaddle,” which means to run away. It was often used to describe someone who had disappeared without paying their debts or fulfilling their promises.

Modern Times: The Digital Disappearance

In the modern era, ghosting has taken on a new form, thanks to technology. With the rise of email, text messaging, and social media, it’s easier than ever to appear, (disappear), as a ghost.

This is especially evident in the world of online dating, where people will often disappear after a few messages or dates, without any explanation. It’s become so common that it has coined its own term: ghosting.

But it’s not just in the dating world that ghosting has become prevalent. In the workplace, people will sometimes stop responding to emails or phone calls, leaving their colleagues or clients wondering what happened. This has stemmed, and been perpetuated from people’s social media behaviours, and transitioned into professional social media platforms.

The Rise of the Anti-Ghosting Movement

While ghosting may have a long and recorded history as a behaviour, or sometimes punishment, it’s not something that most people appreciate. In fact, there has been a rise in the anti-ghosting movement in recent years, with people calling for more transparency and honesty in our relationships, online, and socially.

This movement has taken many forms, from dating apps that encourage people to be more respectful and communicative, to workplace policies that require employees to respond to emails and messages in a timely manner.

So, What Can We Learn from the History of Ghosting?

The history of ghosting people professionally shows us that disappearing without explanation is not a new phenomenon. People have been doing it for centuries, for a variety of reasons.

But it also shows us that ghosting is not a respectful or professional way to handle difficult situations. In fact, it can be harmful to our relationships and our reputations, in more ways subconsciously than most people appreciate at the time.

As with all aspects of life, it’s important to be honest and transparent when ending a relationship or collaboration. This may be uncomfortable at the time, stressful, and sometimes emotional, but it’s better than leaving the other person wondering what happened.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of ghosting, please don’t take it personally. It’s not a reflection of your self-worth or value. Instead, use it as an opportunity to focus on relationships that are positive and healthy, and add value to you, whether professionally, or personally.

Why Ghosting People Professionally is a Bad Idea:

There are many reasons why ghosting people professionally is a bad idea.

  • It’s very unprofessional. Ghosting is simply not a professional way to handle difficult situations. When you ignore emails, phone calls, or messages, you are showing a lack of respect for the other person and their time. It can also make you appear immature, rude, or simply unprofessional.
  • It damages your reputation. If you are known for ghosting people, the word can quickly spread around your workplace or industry. This can damage your reputation and make it harder for you to build trust with others moving forwards.
  • It can harm your relationships. Ghosting can be especially damaging when it comes to relationships with co-workers, clients, or business partners. These are the people you rely on to get work mutually beneficially done and build your career. If you ghost them, you may damage the trust and respect they have for you, which can make it harder to work together in the future.
  • It can cost you future business opportunities. When you ghost a client or business partner, you are potentially losing out on future business opportunities. They may choose to work with someone else who they feel is more reliable and professional.

Tips for Handling Difficult Situations with Humour and Grace:

While it’s never a good idea to ghost people professionally, there are times when you may need to handle difficult situations. Here are some tips on how to do so:

Be honest. If you are unable to continue a relationship or collaboration, it’s always best to be honest and upfront. This may be uncomfortable, but it’s better than leaving the other person wondering what happened. You can do this in a respectful and professional manner, without being overly critical or negative.

Offer an explanation. If you are ending a relationship or collaboration, it’s important to offer an explanation. This can help the other person understand why you are making this decision and can help them move on more easily.

Express gratitude. Even if a relationship or collaboration didn’t work out, it’s important to express gratitude for the opportunity to work together. This can help to maintain a positive relationship and can help you avoid burning bridges.

Use humour when appropriate. While it’s important to be professional, there are times when you can use humour to diffuse a difficult situation. Just be careful not to be overly sarcastic or critical, as this can backfire and damage your reputation.


Ghosting people professionally is never a good idea. It can damage your reputation, harm your relationships, and cost you future business opportunities. Instead, it’s important to handle difficult situations with honesty, respect, and professionalism. By doing so, you can maintain positive relationships with co-workers, clients, and business partners, and build a strong and successful career. And if all else fails, don’t forget the power of a well-timed joke!

Written by Matthew Reeves

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