Ghosting – it’s not me, it’s you!

There was a time when ghosting was exclusive to the dating scene. If you’re not familiar with this term – obviously I’m referring to ‘ghosting’ not ‘dating’ - this is its definition:

The practice of ending all communication and contact with another person without any apparent warning or justification and subsequently ignoring any attempts to reach out or communication made by said person.

And lately it would seem that ghosting is becoming more and more prevalent across many different business sectors.

I guess that at the start of any relationship nowadays the only form of contact is through technology, which makes it easy for anyone who wants to, to sever all ties. Not responding to messages or even using the block function is a way of making someone disappear from your life without any explanation. It’s not right. It’s just rude.

And it pains me to say this, but this disrespectful behaviour has entered the world of business, pushing aside integrity and manners – values so many businesses once prided themselves on.

I’ve been ghosted recently after a couple of pitches and I think I speak for all agencies here when I say, ‘just tell us the truth’. Tell us where we failed, tell us where we misunderstood, tell us what you didn’t like. But please tell us something!

Learning from the pitching experience through feedback and critiques is absolutely golden. At the very least acknowledge the time, effort and creativity that went into the pitch or proposal.

Not having any acknowledgement is painful. From the excitement of compiling the pitch, to the hopes that surround it, to the eager anticipation, to only end up in a vacuum of blankness hurts. How can this not be taken personally? After all, a part of you went into making it happen.

Do you know who Inky, Blinky, Pinky, Claude, and Casper are?

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the five ghosts mentioned here, the first four are from the classic arcade game Pac-Man.

Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Claude chased Pac-Man all over that maze but once that dot-gobbling character ate a ‘power pellet’ then they’d face their demise. In essence the ghosts got ghosted – it was the ultimate farewell. (They did reappear though, if you dropped another coin in the slot!!).

And Casper, known as the friendly ghost, a cartoon character from the 1950’s, very kindly gave his name to another term, called ‘caspering’. Caspering has the same end result as ghosting in that a person removes someone from their life but in this scenario at least they have the common decency to let them down gently.

Feedback matters. Really matters.

It’s a good job that we’re a resilient bunch here at Good Comms. I believe that every design agency must have this trait in abundance as pitching is our lifeblood, and not winning every project is just par for the course.

But to truly elevate the benefits of being resilient and to continually bounce back stronger we need feedback. What we don’t want to feel is frustration caused by not understanding what went wrong. Maybe nothing went wrong, maybe the client had a change of plan – who knows?

What’s causing it?

I don’t think it’s a clear case of complete and utter rudeness. I’m pretty sure that other factors are at play here.

Maybe it’s a lack of time. Sifting through several pitches, or job applications, must be time consuming, not to mention mind-boggling. I can only imagine that the plethora of great candidates, ideas, and approaches must make it hard to reach a decision. And once a decision has been made, even more hard work ensues to make it happen.

Maybe there’s just too much to do. Then there’s the rest of the day job to get through. There could very well be an intention of ‘I’ll get in touch tomorrow” but again events too easily just get in the way.

Maybe the decision maker doesn’t want to cause upset. I get it, I don’t think that I’d enjoy having that chat. Delivering news that you know someone doesn’t want to hear is going to be awkward.

But a few moments of awkwardness versus a lifetime of silence and a broken bridge has got to be better right? At least it demonstrates integrity, and who knows maybe now is just not your time to work together, further down the line their requirements and your talents might just marry up perfectly.

Changing the rules

It could be that an agreement is made from the outset for feedback to be given within a certain timeframe.

If this was to become the norm, the decision makers may get better at giving constructive criticism which results in everyone getting better at what they do. Bit of a win win if you ask me.

What if it’s too late

I desperately want ‘ghosting’ to disappear. But what if it doesn’t? Then I recommend you do what you can to fortify your resilient mindset.

  • Know that you gave it your all. You showcased your talents and your principles.

  • Reflect on what you could have done better.

  • If you don’t hear back, ask for feedback.

  • Don’t take it personally and learn from the experience.

  • Think to yourself, do I really want to be associated with an organisation that treats people like this? Maybe you dodged a bullet!

  • Move on.

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