Improving Your Relationship With Development Teams: “Ghosting”

Let’s talk about ghosting. Most of you already know what I’m talking about. You’re working on a project with someone and they simply stop responding to you, often suddenly. No matter what texts, emails, phone calls, carrier pigeons you send, you’re getting nowhere.

This technical age (and even more-so our COVID climate) enables an elite level of ghosting where you can seemingly disappear into the web-osphere without a trace.

In my experience, the root of most ghosting isn’t a lack of time to respond, but rather thinly veiled conflict avoidance. At the heart of the conflict avoidance is usually some sort of message that needs to be delivered. Some examples:

  • I don’t have capacity for the work
  • I don’t have desire for the work
  • I screwed up and I don’t know how to make it right
  • I don’t feel like I can respond until I have good news

I end up working with a lot of client’s that have been ghosted by developers. They often feel frustrated, burned, and abandoned. What do you do when you’re the one being ghosted?

  • Hypothesize on what might your developer be feeling. What’s the message they may need to deliver?
  • Seek to bridge the gap. You want to re-establish contact in the most light weight way possible. Things to consider:
    • Focus more on re-establishing contact, then the thing you need to get done. Make it clear you aren’t looking for them to have “good news” or be done before they can talk to you.
    • Reset the relationship. Try and get rid of any built up animosity in tone and attitude.
    • De-escalate the stakes. Help the developer to understand that you aren’t out for blood, but just something that works for everyone.

Developers. We need to do our part. Ghosting is typically the easier, but less honorable way of dealing with our problems. Resist the urge to weaponize technology to ignore clients. Imagine the best version of you answering the door to your home and the client is standing there. What might you say?

It is my belief that people are driven towards harmony, and that given opportunities, people desire resolution.

Do the right thing!

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