How to handle digital ghosting in the office

How to handle digital ghosting in the office

Ghosting isn’t limited to the dating world. In a world that’s increasingly digital, ghosting can happen even within office culture, particularly when it comes to emails. So if you’re getting very little response to your emails, there are some communications techniques you can start practicing so that your colleagues start replying and you can get your productivity back on track.

These are questions to ask when you find yourself the victim of digital ghosting in the office:

  1. How are you being digitally ghosted?

    First things first, it’s important to determine how and why you are being ghosted. Sales pitches, meeting requests, and information or clarification requests all require a slightly different approach. And by making even minor adjustments, you are more likely to get the responses you need, and in a timely manner.

    We’ll explore specific adjustments to each of these types of email below, but first, we need to check to see if your communications are on point.

  2. How clear is your subject line?

    This is of the utmost importance. After all, if your subject line is about something completely unrelated to your request, or if it rambles, people are more likely to ignore your email. A bad subject line means your email will at minimum be put on the back burner, and sometimes deleted completely.

    Your subject line should outline what you need and when you need it. You get bonus points if it has an actionable and easily answered ask.

    “Can we meet before Friday?” does all those things, making it a highly effective subject line.

  3. Is your ask clear?

    Is what you need buried in a paragraph? Do you ramble before getting to the point?

    People scan. They don’t read word for word. So if you are frequently wordy, it’s time to change your approach. It’s best to break up your email into short, to-the-point sentences and paragraphs.

    Outline what you’re looking for in the first line: “In order to complete this project by Monday, I need to clear up a few points (below). Are you available to talk before Friday?”

    Then you can go into more detail as needed. If you’re asking for a meeting, try throwing out a few days and times that might work, too, in order to speed things along.

    The bottom line here is to be clear, brief, and meaningful. But, and this is important, you should also be polite—ask, don’t demand!

  4. Are you following up?

    If your subject line and ask are good and you haven’t sent a follow up, then that’s your next step. Even well-meaning people miss or forget to respond to an email on occasion.

    Hit reply and ask if they’ve had a chance to look over your email and if they have any questions. It can be short and sweet. And often, this approach gets exactly the results you need, stopping ghosting in its tracks.

  5. What type of request is your email?

    Keep the different types of email requests in mind.

    When it’s a sales pitch

    Sales pitches are tricky. And just about any ask can fall into this category, because typically, you’re asking someone to do something for you. Maybe it’s not a sales pitch, per se, where you’re asking for money in exchange for a service or product. Instead, maybe you’re pitching a new idea. Or, maybe you’re pitching a raise.

    Then again, maybe it’s some other ask altogether. If you’re getting ghosted, then it’s a problem.

    If your emails measure up to the above steps, let’s double check a few other things:

    1. While subject lines should be clear, you want to make “sales” emails more enticing.
      • What is your offer?
      • What are you selling?
      • Why should they want to open the email? Make it compelling, and you’re more likely to get responses.
    2. Are you reaching the right person? If not, then your email will get deleted. Period. Maybe who you should be contacting is obvious. Maybe not. Spend some time and get it right.
    3. Is your immediacy their immediacy? If not, then give them some grace and be sure to follow up.

    When it’s a meeting request

    There’s almost nothing worse than getting ghosted at a meeting, when someone doesn’t show up, either to your digital meeting via Zoom, Skype or another platform, or your in-person meeting. After all you’ve put the time and effort into setting it up and preparing for it. However, it’s even harder when you can’t get someone to respond to your emailed meeting request in the first place.

    Here’s what you need to know about digital meeting requests:

    You are most likely to get a response when you clearly articulate what you need to discuss. Even a basic outline with bullet point topics communicates that you’re serious, organized and prepared to make the most of everyone’s time. What’s more it lets the person know how they can be prepared.

    And, maybe, they’ll be able to address some of the questions via email, saving meeting time.

    When you need more information to complete a project

    These are tough. You want to ping the person, but you don’t want to send them 100 emails. So instead, focus really clearly on steps 1-4.

    Still being ghosted? This is when you find another way to reach out to your ghoster. Maybe it’s simply picking up the phone or knocking on a door.

  6. What if the ghosting is a case of email overload?

    Email overload is a very real problem. We spend over 28% of our time on email. It highlights the importance of clear, precise emails. But not everyone writes them.

    This could be your chance to be an office hero by recommending an office messaging system to ping colleagues when it’s really important. With software like Slack and Skype, you can easily find a great way to get quick responses on the things that are important.

The takeaway

Clear, concise communication is the key to solving digital ghosting at the office. And with this cheat sheet, you’re well on your way!