Bad news is better than no news at all.
For a variety of reasons, I have adopted a “within 24 hours” as my standard operating procedure when it comes to responding to email. More often than not, my response comes within 1 hour. On Slack, I’ve been known to respond within the same minute the question is posted.
Worth calling out: this is my own expectation and not something I (nor anyone) should force onto another person. I know that and yet, it's hard not to do so.
As to the variety of reasons mentioned at the start, the obvious is simply because I have the technological means to easily adhere to this rule. To claim otherwise is just intentional ignorance.
“Did you get my email?” Yes, always. My phone notified me in three different ways. There’s no way I didn’t get your email.
Alerts, reminders, and notifications are sure to interrupt my searching for the right cat gif all to make sure I’m aware of the email chain you added me to unnecessarily—the excuse of not being in front of a computer is dead and gone.
Another reason in the list, I cannot stand a cluttered inbox. “You have 2,574 unread emails.” Nightmare. I use the zero-inbox method. Any message that is still in my inbox after being read means I need to take some sort of action on it. Otherwise it’s filed appropriately and out of sight. Oftentimes, it’s my response via email reply that’s the action needed. So then…why not just reply quickly and check it off your to do list? Productivity through the roof.
When it comes to action required offline, I still respond so the sender sees that I have in fact gotten their email (read receipts suck) and they know what my next steps are. Re: status updates pending.
There’s more to be said on the neurosis that runs my mind but you can start to see how ridiculous it is to not send some kind of response. I find most people have enough professional courteous sense that the majority of the time this isn’t an issue. And yet…
The day started out nice. Starbucks made your custom drink order right; the cute barista was working. Traffic was meh as usual but you got to a really good part in the podcast series you’re following. You remembered to pack your lunch and bring it with you. And then—after an already established back and forth conversation between an unnamed offender—they ghost you.
You think it’s weird since they’ve been so quick to respond previously. You gift them a day or two. “Maybe they’re busy,” you say. Still nothing. You send a nudge email to get to the top of their inbox. “Maybe they forgot,” you say. Nothing again. Now you’re wondering if something nefarious happened to them and they’re being held captive away from any electronic devices.
And then you see them active in an email chain…son of a b****.
What’s the explanation here? They didn’t have time to complete their next step and felt guilty so they just avoided you? They really were too busy and honestly did forget to respond? They were abducted and replaced with a synthetic human replica to slowly infiltrate the human population effectively clearing all previously held memories?
The horrid part of these moments is that you don’t get the opportunity to find out what happened. They just never follow up with you. Texts, calls, and emails go unanswered ad nauseum. Don’t get me wrong, you could track them down and confront them in person, it’s just most aren’t that passionate about it. It’s still kick-to-the-face annoying though.
When this happens in the job search, in the end you might have the last laugh. Let’s say your contact goes silent; for whatever reason you never hear from them again. Somewhere down the line, someone is going to ask you about said person or said company—now I’m not advocating that this is your moment to bury them into the ground but it is a time when you should be honest about your experience.
The sad truth about professionally ghosting someone is that you never know who your ghost knows, or will know, and how your interaction with them is going to impact you later. With that in mind, even if you have bad news to give, give it. Your recipient will ultimately be thankful there’s closure rather than an open-ended question mark.