Professional development

How to deal with the business ghoster – and avoid being one yourself

- February 7, 2023 5 MIN READ

We’ve all been there. The emails, texts and calls just stop from a promising business lead. We’ve been professionally ‘ghosted’. How can we cope with ghosting and prevent it from happening again? And perhaps more importantly, how can we avoid becoming a business ghoster ourselves? Copywriter and solo business owner, Tom Valcanis, explains.

The solo business life is a lot like the solo dating life. We get a lot of our leads through the internet; there’s a lot of back and forth before we set up a date; we go on a lot of blind lunches and dinners.

We also get ghosted.

What is ‘ghosting’?

Ghosting is the act of a relationship partner – whether new or established – doing a ‘disappearing’ act without prompt or explanation. They simply stop responding to texts, emails or phone calls. They end the relationship by simply removing themselves from it completely.

Businesses do it too. We get a promising lead in and we share an encouraging conversation, maybe even set up a meeting. Feeling good about the prospect, we send out a proposal, quote or invoice. Days pass. Weeks pass. We send an email nudge.


After weeks or months of reminder emails and a polite phone call or two, we just never hear from them again. We’ve been professionally ghosted.

Amelia Twiss, executive coach and registered psychologist at the Twiss Psychology Group, defines business or professional ghosting when:

“Someone deliberately stops communicating with another person in a professional context, despite having an active relationship with that person, and without letting the other person know.”

What makes someone ghost a potential contact?

Professional ghosting doesn’t mean we’re dealing with serial, skilled veteran ghosters. (Though in some cases, we very well might be.) We’re being ghosted by business people; those we’d usually call colleagues and contacts.

But why do they do it?

Speaker, psychologist and consultant, Dr. Joe Issak, says it’s due to many factors.

“They’re uncertain,” Issak says. “They’re not sure what’s happening. They are facing difficulty, and they can’t lead in that adversity and without adequate resources, so they just disappear. They go quiet, because they know if they say something, it might be held against them. If they haven’t said anything, they can always make up an excuse saying, ‘Well, we were under a lot of pressure, we’re very busy. I’m so sorry that I have to reply to your email after seven weeks.’ They think they can get away with it without consequence.”

Amelia Twiss agrees.

“There is a lack of care and respect for the other party and a fear of perceived conflict. They have anxiety about being disliked. They might be drowning under their responsibilities and have difficulty coping. They want to spare the other party discomfort, but it’s more about a lack of care and respect.”

The impact of ghosting

We might brush this off and say “business is business”, but ghosting has an obvious impact on how we feel and perform at work. Twiss says that repeated experiences of ghosting can have significant impacts on someone’s self-esteem, sense of belonging and mental wellbeing.

It can also have negative effects on the person doing the ghosting, according to Issak, and can affect certain people more than others.

“Let’s say someone is a people person – loves to help people, wants people to see them as a nice person, loves to be of value to others. If this person has to ghost, this will have more severe impact than a person who is drive-oriented or number-oriented. Neither will feel well, but the impact and the severity of it will vary, depending on the personality profile.

“No human being that has a heart pumping in their chest will ghost someone and feel okay,” he says.

Issak also believes ghosting can lead to rumination and add to negative self-talk.

“If it happens quite a few times in a row, they start thinking, ‘Okay, what’s wrong with me? What am I doing wrong? Did I upset them?’ They run their life back in their head. They can taste the failure.”

Sad black dog

How to avoid becoming a professional ghoster

Some ghosting is unintentional, however gaining a reputation as a ghoster can damage your professional relationships now and into the future. The way to avoid ghosting is to be pro-active and as ‘human’ as possible. This means acknowledging that you – and other colleagues and contacts – are ‘perfectly imperfect‘ and can’t be across absolutely everything at once.

Twiss shares some great tips to avoid ghosting others:

  • Commit to integrity in your dealings with others, and create systems to manage your responsibilities and relationships effectively.
  • Don’t take on so much work that you can’t reply to others in a timely manner.
  • Manage expectations of the other party if you aren’t going to be able to meet an agreed deadline.
  • If you realise that you have let someone down, apologise as soon as you realise. Make sure you tell that person what you are putting in place to make sure that the oversight doesn’t happen again.

“These steps will go a long way to restoring a sense of social inclusion and psychological safety between the people in your professional network,” she says.

What to do when you’ve been ghosted

Ghosting doesn’t have to feel awful; we can help ourselves to cope with ghosting when it happens.

“Don’t be afraid to follow up the ghoster,” Twiss advises. “Assume that they are struggling to manage their affairs and that by following up you are actually doing them a favour. If you never hear back, remind yourself that this isn’t about you – the other party is struggling in their own way. Framing the experience in this way can help people make sense of being ghosted.

“If after following up a few times you haven’t received a response, you could message the other party and say ‘I haven’t heard back from you so I will be taking this conversation off my pending list. Please feel free to get back in touch anytime’. By doing this, you are taking responsibility for the relationship and for communicating clearly about where you stand. This frees you up to let go of being ghosted as you have created closure for yourself.”

Article updated for 2023.

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