Employers say ‘ghosting coasting’ is a growing problem, but workers have their reasons for quietly walking away from a job

Coleen Piteo, director of marketing at Yours Truly restaurant, puts out a sign that says, 'Free Food' and 'Hiring all positions' to lure in job applicants.
Coleen Piteo, director of marketing at Yours Truly restaurant, puts out a sign for hiring, Thursday, June 3, 2021, in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. AP Photo/Tony Dejak
  • A phenomenon of “ghosting coasting” is creating new headaches for employers in a tight labor market.
  • Recruiters and managers say they have been left high and dry by new hires who vanish without explanation.
  • Meanwhile workers say low wages and poor leadership give them little reason to stick around.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Over a summer marked by rage quits, the Great Resignation, and other high-profile walkouts by overworked and under-appreciated employees, another headache has been quietly brewing.

Where many employees have gone out with a bang this year, a growing number are instead departing without so much as a whimper.

Hiring and retention has become a defining challenge in the current labor market, and the Federal Reserve’s most recent summary of economic conditions in the US says a growing trend is giving employers new headaches.

“Retention continued to be a growing problem for firms,” the Atlanta Fed said in its September Beige Book entry. “Restauranteurs noted concerns over ‘ghosting coasting,’ where a new hire works for a few days and moves on to the next restaurant without notice before they are let go due to lack of skills.”

Granted, the practice itself is not new, but it does appear to be more widespread than ever before as job openings outpace job seekers, allowing workers to reclaim a measure of the power in a situation that has favored employers for decades.

Recruiters in several industries say they’ve never seen anything like it.

“We are in such desperate need that I would literally hire anyone that passes the background check,” said one food-service recruiter who is currently trying to staff a large food-service contract. Insider agreed to not publish her name or client.

In the past six weeks alone, she told Insider, she scheduled 58 interviews for jobs ranging from $US14 ($AU19) to $US20 ($AU28) per hour, of which 27 candidates actually showed up. From there she scheduled eight for onboarding after they passed a background check, only to have just five show up for work. Of those five, three have ghosted her leaving only two out of the original 58 she considered.

“We’re just understaffed and barely keeping our heads above water and I’m at a complete loss as to how to fix it,” she said.

The manager of a spa and fitness center at a California country club said she has had eight new hires ghost her this year so far, even after she specifically talks about ghosting in her onboarding process and asks that workers stay in communication with her, especially if they want to quit.

“They have still done it,” she said.

Meanwhile, workers pushed back against the Fed’s characterization that ghosting workers were somehow unqualified for the job, saying that misleading job descriptions, low pay, or inadequate training gave them little reason to stick around.

“The main reason employees are ghosting employers is they simply no longer have to put up with horrible working conditions, terrible bosses, low pay, and being overworked,” said Matt Murphy, an Oregon restaurant worker who told Insider he has never seen anything like it in 25 years in the industry.

Although Murphy says he hasn’t ghosted an employer, he has had to deal with the consequences when someone on his team does, especially if one ghost leads to a ripple effect of quits when colleagues get suddenly overwhelmed by the extra workload.

Even with its challenges, Murphy welcomes the disruption, especially in industries where “at-will” employment contracts give managers the legal right to terminate workers at any time and for any reason – or no reason at all.

“It is causing some positive change in our industry,” he said. “Employers who would ordinarily just treat people like disposable workers are now treating them like real employees. It’s definitely changed perspectives on things.”

If you are a worker who has ghosted an employer or an employer who has been ghosted, please get in touch with Dominick Reuter via email. Responses to this story will be kept confidential.