From the days of Ebenezer Scrooge to Bill Lumbergh in “Office Space,” employers are typically portrayed in fiction as having the upper hand in the employer-employee relationship. For most employees, they feel that fiction is their sad reality.

For decades, employers have felt that employees should be happy to have a job. Employees have felt indebted to employers, almost beholden to them. But in 2018, employees are revolting and turning the tables on employers at a level that has been unheard of in the hiring landscape.

To some extent, employees are giving employers a taste of their own medicine, so they tell themselves. During and after the Great Recession, when unemployment reached 10 percent, many firms ignored job applicants. Candidates were frustrated because they felt employers were ghosting on them, even though those employers did not have jobs to offer due to terrible economic conditions.

Ghosting, where someone doesn’t communicate either at the outset or during a conversation, is a way to avoid providing an honest, but unpleasant, message such as, “I am resigning my job” or “I have accepted another job.” The thought is: “if I ignore you, you will get the hint and go away.”

During the recession and long afterward, when a company interviewed job seekers, they had many qualified candidates to choose from. Unfortunately, many employers did not communicate with the candidates that were not chosen. This left a bitter taste in the mouths of hungry job seekers. They felt disrespected.

Now the tables have turned and employees are now “ghosting” employers at an alarming rate.

Ghosting comes in many forms, which we have been tracking at our recruiting firm. Consider:

No show on the first day of a new job — This area is where we have seen the greatest increase in candidate ghosting in 2018. Between January and June, we had an astounding 26 people not show up for their first day of a direct-hire job. These were all employed professionals, who had been on interviews with our clients and who had received — and accepted — written job offers. In over 25 years in the recruiting industry, we have never seen this type of candidate behavior. Ever. For a candidate to not show up for a temporary or contract assignment happens occasionally. For such a large number of candidates to not show up for a direct-hire job is unheard of.
No Show for a first interview — in a one-week period in July 2018, we had 13 first interviews scheduled with our clients for direct hire jobs. Nine candidates ghosted us and our clients and did not show up for the interview.
Quitting a job without giving notice — while this is nothing new, we have seen an increase. What is new is that the Labor Department reported that in May 2018, 2.4 percent of all those employed quit jobs, typically to take another, the largest share in 17 years.

In a recent USA Today article on employee ghosting, many businesses report that 20 percent to 50 percent of job applicants and workers are pulling no-shows in some form. For example, new hires don’t show up on the first day of work. That behavior — or ignoring calls after accepting a job offer — is happening about 30 percent of the time with servers, bartenders, and other workers hired this year by Hollywood Casino in Baton Rouge according to the article.

Why can employees get away with such unprofessional behavior? It’s a candidate market and they have more job options, and the data proves it out. In May, with unemployment then near an 18-year low of 3.8 percent, there were more job openings than unemployed people for just the second month in the past two decades, according to the Labor Department.

In business, time is money. Ghosting by employees or job seekers correlates to wasted recruiting time and costs and potentially lost production or sales, as hard-to-fill jobs stay open longer than anticipated.

To combat this new employee ghosting behavior, employers are trying to mitigate wasted time. Since they can no longer count on the verbal or written commitment of a job offer acceptance, some employers are now doing mass group interviews for entry-level jobs, knowing that a large majority of people in the interview process will opt-out or stop communicating.

Other employers are working harder during interviews to sell candidates on the benefits of working for their company, including having potential co-workers meet with job candidates and share why the company is a great place to work.

Lastly, other employers are shortening the time before a new hire starts, including immediate employment or as soon as possible, instead of having them start in a few weeks. The company’s goal is to seek employees who match their sense of urgency. If they don’t start a new employee quickly, that employee could still have the mindset of being a free agent.

Todd Palmer is the founder and president of Troy-based Diversified Industrial Staffing and Diversified PEOple LLC and a regular contributor to DBusiness.