The "ghosting-coasting" phenomenon is creating new headaches for employers in a tight labor market.
Recruiters and managers say they've been left high and dry by hires who vanish without explanation.
Meanwhile, workers say low wages and poor leadership give them little reason to stick around.
While 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 have become a defining challenge in the labor market, and the Federal Reserve's most recent summary of economic conditions in the US said a growing trend was giving employers new headaches.
"Retention continued to be a growing problem for firms," the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta 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."
The practice itself is not new, but it does appear to be more widespread than ever as job openings outpace job seekers, which allows 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 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 $14 to $20 an hour, and only 27 candidates 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 had eight new hires ghost her this year, even after she specifically talked about ghosting in her onboarding process and asked 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 workers who ghost were somehow unqualified for the job, saying that misleading job descriptions, low pay, and 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 had never seen anything like it in 25 years in the industry.
While Murphy hasn't ghosted an employer, he has had to deal with the consequences when someone on his team does, he said, 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.
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