Breadcrumbing by employers

First things first, this is not a post about Hansel and Gretel, but the terminology just might have been borrowed from the Grimm brothers’ famous fairy tale.

Following our recent posts and research into ‘ghosting’ in the workplace by candidates and employees, we’re shining the spotlight on another new trend, first noticed on the dating scene.

‘Breadcrumbing,’ or ‘leading someone on,’ would usually apply to someone who is being given stronger than intended signals in the romantic stakes. Or perhaps that’s too kind a way of putting it; perhaps someone is being strung along in total awareness of the effect that the ‘crumbs of affection’ being dropped have on their victim.

How does this take effect, or apply, in a workplace setting? Savvy employees are now getting clued up about the crumbs, or bait, that might be scattered before them by an employer who makes promises that they never intend to keep. When praise about performance is lavished, but not followed through with either promotion or a pay rise, this would be categorised as ‘breadcrumbing.’

Breadcrumbing could also include promises to a prospective employee about the opportunities they will be given when they join a team, which never come to fruition.

Finally, employees might throw breadcrumbs to one another when they need assistance in their line of work, cosying up to a colleague before asking a favour, without offering the same level of help in return when they ask for it.

Employers would do well to take note of how promises they make which they do not or cannot follow through on are being perceived by their employees, and to take note of the blossoming lexicon that is flourishing in a Gen Z era. Employees who have cottoned on to what is happening, will, quite rightly, be asking for more concrete responses about when they might expect to move up the ladder, or how much they might be given in terms of a pay rise or bonus.

Employers have been warned!


If you require assistance with any of the above matters, please contact David Greenhalgh of the Joelson employment team on +44 (0)20 7580 5721.

This article is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action.