NO PHANTOM CONCERN

Ghosting at work is now big enough that it caught the Fed’s attention

They must be stuck in traffic.
They must be stuck in traffic.
Image: Unsplash/Dane Deaner
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The new Beige Book from the Federal Reserve Bank contains some millennial slang to describe a rising trend in the workplace: ghosting.

The mention in the Fed publication, more formally known as the Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions by Federal Reserve District, also comes with a helpful definition: ”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,” the summary of conditions in Chicago notes.

Until recently, ghosting was almost exclusively used to refer to one person disappearing from a romantic relationship, whether in an online app or after a few face-to-face dates. The idea is that by disappearing, both parties are spared the awkward conversation about at least one half’s lack of interest. It’s often seen as no big deal, and not considered terribly rude unless the couple has spent a substantial amount of time with each other.

Quartz at Work reported on the word’s “drift” into the workplace earlier this year, but the appearance in the Fed’s Beige Book this week marks a new milestone. Ghosting at work has officially arrived.

Employers should know that it can happen at any time—after a job interview, after a hiring, or even after someone has started on the job. In a perverse way, it’s a positive sign of a strong economy and a strong labor market. The unemployment rate has been hovering below 4% for several months; it’s been nearly 50 years since the last time it was this low. As the Fed Beige Book entry from Chicago notes: “As they have for some time, contacts indicated that the labor market was tight and that they had difficulty filling positions at all skill levels.”

To produce the Beige Book, which is published eight times per year, Fed economists collect and summarize notes from the country’s regional Federal Reserve banks. They share the buzz they’re hearing from branch directors and observations from “interviews with key business contacts, economists, market experts, and other sources,” as the central bank’s website explains. The report is so named because the cover of the print edition comes in that dull shade.

Solid data on ghosting has yet to materialize, but anecdotal reports suggest that it’s happening in various categories of jobs. It’s becoming more common not only at restaurants and hotels, where you’d expect a high turnover rate, but also in offices. An executive from Robert Half, a global staffing firm, told the Washington Post that its recruiters have seen a 10% to 20% increase in ghosting in 2018.

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