Opinion - CNBC Work

Ghosting in the workplace is on the rise — what to do if it happens to you

Danny Govberg, co-founder and CEO of WatchBox, an e-commerce platform to buy, sell and trade luxury preowned watches
Key Points
  • Ghosting in the workplace is on the rise.
  • Texts and emails have made it all too easy for people to hide behind their screens and ignore a message.
  • Fortunately, there are a number of ways to prevent being professionally ghosted and revive a lost lead.
Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy | Getty Images

It's Halloween, so what better time to talk about perhaps one of the scariest things that could happen to you — getting ghosted. A term coined by millennials to describe the way a dating prospect "disappears" by no longer responding to messages or phone calls, getting ghosted has become a common term that has now crept into the workplace.

While there is no shortage of books or lectures describing how to avoid getting ghosted by a Tinder date, there is rarely any discussion on what to do when you are ghosted professionally. Whether it's by a potential employer, a strategic partner or a client, being brushed aside or entirely ignored in the workplace can produce feelings of defeat, disappointment and confusion.

Unfortunately, texts and emails have made it all too easy for people to hide behind their screens and ignore a message, and it can be frustrating to invest the time and effort into a potential relationship, or perhaps an already existing relationship, just to be left without any sort of explanation.

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At WatchBox — an online platform for buying, selling and trading of preowned luxury watches that I co-founded with Liam Wee Tay and Justin Reis in 2017 — we thrive on relationships and great customer experience. On a daily basis, our watch traders speak with watch enthusiasts and collectors who buy, sell and trade pieces from their personal collections. To no surprise, in this line of work, establishing and maintaining relationships is key. Yet while I often face being ghosted, it is a challenge I have learned to overcome using specific strategies and tactics to bring the ghost back from the dead. And fortunately, our watch traders are experts in necromancy.

Here are five tips to prevent this phenomenon and revive a lost lead.

1. Pick up the phone

While the standard form of communication in the working world is email, words on a screen prevent others from hearing the confidence and humanism in your voice as you demonstrate your expertise. It can be a challenge to gain respect for the knowledge you have in your field, but by speaking over the phone, you establish a more personal relationship and show you are willing to address any concerns or questions on the spot. At WatchBox a trader's first conversation with a client is over the phone, or in-person if possible, to begin building that relationship right away and lessen the chances of being ghosted down the line.

2. Establish trust

Perhaps even more impactful than being seen as knowledgeable is being seen as trustworthy. WatchBox's clients range from political officials to athletes and doctors, all of whom are very successful in their own respective industry but not necessarily knowledgeable on the luxury watch resell space. So they often seek counsel when it comes to obtaining the true value of a particular watch they wish to sell. Trustworthy guidance is critical to retain customers, and when there is real trust in a relationship, ghosting is at an all-time low.

3. Be a great listener

One of WatchBox's top traders, Josh Thanos, recommended the book "Never Split the Difference" by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz, and now I share it with my other colleagues as a great source for strategic communication. The story of Chris Voss' remarkable career as a hostage negotiator provides helpful tidbits on how to connect with people, particularly by means of listening, in a way that allows you to validate someone else's emotions to create enough trust and safety for a real conversation to begin and continue without any sort of abrupt stop.

4. Lower the heat

Similar to dating, coming across as impatient or aggressive can be overwhelming to the other party, making them feel enough pressure to ghost and forget the relationship existed in the first place. Our traders understand that pushing toward the finish line can bring the conversation backward, so its better to be patient, ensure all questions and concerns are answered, and avoid the dreaded double text if you receive no response.

5. Use this key phrase

What happens when you have obviously been ghosted but aren't quite ready to give up? Reviving a dead business lead can perhaps be even more challenging than preventing being ghosted from the start. Our traders often joke that their key phrase "Are we giving up on this?" often encourages a client to finally answer. So next time you're faced with a ghost, make sure to get answers from them even if it means checking in on a continuous basis with a lighthearted question. Remember, we all need closure, whether positive or negative, in both business and relationships.

— By Danny Govberg, co-founder and CEO of WatchBox