Quiet Bridge Burning could be the next hot trend in the employment market. Talent professionals have been experiencing a sharp rise in candidates who are accepting lucrative job offers, only to back out at the last minute. They will sign offer letters – closing out the search process – and employers will even begin the onboarding process, only to have the candidate fail to follow through on their stated commitment, often just prior to a start date.
Quiet Bridge Burning Creates Unnecessary Volatility
In some cases, candidates are neglecting to inform companies that they’re no longer planning to join. The employer may not even find out until their new hire is a no-show on their first day of employment. This recently happened to a manufacturing client of ours where a Plant Controller, a position that pays well into the six figures, failed to show up on their first day of employment.
Another client of ours recently extended an offer to a procurement executive that was well into the $200K range. Everything seemed to be moving along just fine until the candidate went dark. We never heard from the candidate again after repeated calls, emails, and texts. In my almost 30 years working in recruitment and executive search, I’ve never experienced or even heard of this type of behavior at the executive level. Bridges were absolutely burned by these two ghosting examples.
Quiet bridge burning has implications across supply chain management and other industries, as the pendulum slowly but surely swings from a candidate-driven market back to an employer-driven market. Many candidates have no clue that they’re burning bridges when they back out of an employment agreement. When they ghost their agreed-upon start date, they can enrage smoldering bridge flames into an inferno.
Loyalty is a Two-Way Street
Both employers and candidates are beholden to live up to their word and commitments. Just as candidates shouldn’t accept job offers only to ghost everyone in the process, which can lead to “burning a bridge,” employers should be mindful and respectful of how they treat their candidates and employees. Mass layoffs over zoom or email, failure to adequately accommodate basic worker needs, and low-balling job offers can boomerang back on an employer and quietly lead to bridge burning. With the advent of social media and review sites such as Glassdoor, it’s easier now than ever before for employers to quickly wreck their reputation and become a place that highly sought after candidates are advised to avoid at all costs.
Ghosting happens to both employees and employers. We all know that sometimes an employer just can’t respond to every single applicant in the pipeline. The deluge of online applicants has made this almost impossible. But employees are definitely making up for lost time. From 2019 to 2022, this phenomenon increased from 19% of employees ghosting an employer after an offer to a whopping 28%.
There are only a few degrees of separation between employees working in supply chain, despite the fact that the field employs tens of millions of workers. Do you want to become someone who is known for not honoring their commitments? Sure, money talks, but in the end, your integrity and reputation are worth more than any dollar amount. And for you employers, remember that sometimes a paycheck is not enough. What matters just as much, if not more, is how you treat your employees.
How to Course Correct and Apply Bridge Flame Retardant
As long as there is an employer/employee relationship, there will be quiet quitting and quiet bridge burning. The human element should always be accounted for (at least until the AI bots take over the world and Skynet finally is in charge). Be that as it may, employers want and need people that they can trust, and employees want to be treated fairly.
With that said, things happen in our lives, and sometimes there are very valid reasons for why candidates need to back out of starting after accepting an offer. If this happens, simply communicate and explain this to the employer. Sure, they’re not going to be happy as you’re very likely putting the company in a bind. But if you handle it professionally, you can certainly mitigate setting any bridges on fire, which is always better than lighting that bridge up.
On the employer side, there are also valid reasons for having to lay off employees, and we see this often during recessions, or when companies simply fail to thrive and survive. Be transparent and don’t hide behind a computer when you need to hand out pink slips en-masse! That’s unacceptable and will wreak havoc on your brand image and reputation.
In addition, stop it with the ghosting of candidates. When you need to reject candidates that fail to clear your interview process, simply let them know and don’t leave them hanging. Word travels fast in our highly digital world, and if you treat your employees like a piece of dirt, you’ll get what you deserve when your Glassdoor ratings start circling around the toilet.
Lastly, because Quiet Bridge Burning is becoming more and more common, remember that nothing is final these days with your new hire until you have that “butt in seat.” If it’s a critical role, you need to have contingencies in place. It is essential to have a suitable backup candidate or two. Keep recruiting so you’re not having to start the hiring process over should your new hire decide to back out prior to starting, or worse, ghost you and not show up at all.
Companies that win and employees that thrive will be the ones with character, honesty, and respect, from front-line order pickers up to C-suite leaders. We all have to always keep it professional, no matter what. The volatility in the supply chain talent market doesn’t really serve anyone. But, a rising tide raises all ships. Employers should recognize that it’s not 1999 anymore and employees should be treated accordingly. The world has changed and we should adapt. Employees need to also recognize that your reputation takes years to establish but can be tarnished in a matter of minutes.
Whether you’re the employer or the employee that breaks the “circle of trust,” it’s simply not worth it to have an indelible black mark by your name or company. You’re essentially closing opportunity doors and putting your reputation at risk. Again, is it worth it to burn a bridge that can lead to being “blacklisted?”