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You’ve been professionally ghosted, now what?

It’s never fun to be on the receiving end of unexplained silence. Here are some tips on what you can do to get the person on the other end to respond.

You’ve been professionally ghosted, now what?
[Animation: Voyager Project; Pavlo Stavnichuk/iStock]

Hi again. Just circling back. Did you see my last email? I wanted to quickly follow up. Let me know when you have a chance.

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Most of us are all too familiar with ghosting in our personal lives, whether it’s the stereotypical Tinder connect who evaporates, or a friend who never follows through with weekend plans. But then there’s ghosting at work, a trend that’s not exactly new but is uniquely annoying every time it happens.

You know the drill. You need something from a colleague, and even though you know they’re on their computer all day, every day, somehow you’re supposed to believe that they just haven’t read your email from three days ago.

Here are a few of the most common ghosting situations, along with our best tips to finally get a response back–or at least try to.

When you’re interviewing for a job

Sign you’ve been ghosted:

Zero response to your thank-you note or second follow-up.

How to address it: 

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If you’ve only sent a single thank-you note after your interview, you could give it one last shot with a follow-up note that expresses (again) how interested you are. They might still be interviewing and just haven’t gotten back.

If you’ve already done that, it’s time to take a cue from standard dating advice: move on. They’re just not that into you, and that’s okay. There’s another company out there that will fall in love with you (and email you back).


Related: How to avoid being professionally ghosted


When someone owes you something for a project

Sign you’ve been ghosted:

One (or two or three . . . ) emails asking for something and still no response.

How to address it:

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If you’re in the same office, go see them and ask. We’ve gotten pretty comfortable hiding behind computer screens, but it’s a lot harder to look someone in the eye when you owe them something and not feel motivated to give it to them. If that’s not going to work in your situation, another good move (especially after a second or third email) is to cc a supervisor on the chain on another check-in. This is only a trick to be used in an incredibly flaky context–but trust us, people get back fast.

When you ask the team for help–and no one volunteers

Sign you’ve been ghosted:

You email a few coworkers asking if anyone can help you with a presentation, but absolutely no one responds.

How to address it:

You could send a follow-up email reminding everyone that you’re still waiting for a volunteer, and you might hear back–but most likely someone will write back out of guilt, only to give an excuse on why they can’t help you.

Skip the in-between step and go straight to the source. We like to email people individually (they’re more likely to get back to that than to the mass email) or, better yet, to stop by their desk and say, “Hey, I know I sent an email the other day but didn’t hear back from you.” Either way, the best way to handle it is to acknowledge why they don’t want to do it, e.g., “I know that it’s not exactly a fun thing and I’m sure you’ve got a ton of stuff on your plate, but I’m really getting desperate. Could you help me? I’ll owe you one.” Everybody loves an office IOU.

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Related: This is what recruiters look for on your social media accounts 


When you ask for a networking introduction

Sign you’ve been ghosted:

You ask if your coworker/boss/friend can introduce you to someone in their network, they maybe even say, “Sure, I’ll look up their contact for you” and then you never hear anything back.

How to address it:

This varies person to person, but you’ve got two possibilities here: One is that the person you asked is a capital F Flake, the other is that they don’t want to do it. So which one are they?

If she’s a Flake, follow up again and one more time after that. Underscore how important it is to you and how much you’d appreciate it. Sprinkle a lot of “pleases” and “you’re my hero” statements in there. Hope for the best.

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If you suspect she doesn’t want to do it, ask yourself honestly why. Is it awkward for her? In many cases, that’s the most common answer–just because you want the contact information doesn’t mean she’s comfortable sharing it. If that’s the case, follow up one time and then drop it. Find another way to get introduced or try reaching out to the contact cold on LinkedIn. That might work just as well.


Related: This is how to write a follow-up email that’s not annoying 


When someone has missed a deadline

Sign you’ve been ghosted:
The work they owe you isn’t here.

How to address it:

Head on. Email and say something like this:

Hi [Name],

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Checking in on the status of [The Late Project] since I was hoping to have that by [Insert the Missed Deadline]. Could you give me an update on where you’re at and when I can expect to have it by?

If they still don’t respond, try our favorite last-ditch effort solution: cc your/their boss on another follow-up.

When you do someone a favor and ask for a favor back

Sign you’ve been ghosted:

Let’s just use a Career Contessa example, shall we? You interview a woman from a big name brand, and you share that interview on all your social channels. You email her PR team asking them to share it with their network as well, and . . . nothing.

How to address it:

Even if you wish it worked differently, you do something for someone just to do it. Unless you had an agreement that they would return the favor in a specific way at a specific time, the most you can do is email once more asking if they could help you with XYZ project. Tell them it would mean a lot to you without pointing fingers (“I did this for you already”). If they don’t get back, remember that the next time they ask you for a favor.

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When someone is doing bad work

Sign you’ve been ghosted:

You give an employee or coworker feedback about some poor performance and suddenly, they’re phoning it in on their work. Barely.

How to address it:

Again, head on is best. (Seeing a pattern here?) Many a passive-aggressive battle is waged in the break room, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep it classy. Ask them if you can chat for five minutes and point out that you’ve noticed things feel a bit strained. Use a specific example or two if you have them. Then ask for whatever it is that you need.

By the way, if you’re their boss and they’re now doing badly and ignoring your requests and feedback, this is all documentation you can use if/when you let them go. Because let’s be real, a professional ghoster who also does a bad job? Not exactly long-term employee material.


This article originally appeared on Career Contessa and is reprinted with permission. 

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