Why Are Some Team Members So Disengaged?

Have you ever had team members that refused to co-operate with other people? They could either subvert the team overtly, by shouting at other team members, or refuse point blank to do their allocated tasks. Or, on the other hand, they could join the underground, spreading rumors or doing the absolute minimum needed to get by. I'm sure you have experienced such employee resistance. Why do these people react so negatively?

Well, you could blame them for their misbehavior. And many managers and team members do just that. Many times, however, the cause of their behavior is much more complex than them just being "troublemakers". Here are some possible reasons for their recalcitrant behavior.

• belief that the team activity is a passing fad
• lack of clarity over their role in the organization
• loss of status or social standing
• lack of confidence in developing new skills
• feeling of work overload
• team activities inconsistent with religious or cultural values
• loss of opportunities for promotion within the organization
• loss of income or job security
• loss of time with their family
• lack of support from supervisors and managers

What other reasons can you think of for why an employee would not want to co-operate? And how would you find out? Tell us your story.

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Tags: behavior, communicate, culture, decision, employee, engagement, enthusiasm, making


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Comment by Leslie Allan on October 23, 2011 at 8:44pm

Thanks Craig for bringing up the five whys. It's one of my favorite tools and it's excellent for peeling away the onion layers to uncover systemic deficiencies. Another favorite tool of mine is the Ishikawa diagram, or better known as the Fishbone diagram.


When it comes to individual performance, I like my Diagnostic Flow Chart. I think it's a matter of choosing the most appropriate tool for the circumstances. Thanks again Craig for chipping in.

Comment by Craig Althof on October 22, 2011 at 6:22pm

I ain’t the kinda guy to come and break all your records….But then again I might.

Could you try to keep it down, I was up kinda late last night.

(Cross Canadian Ragweed: Late Last Night)


If it’s not in my nature, what might cause me to do something extreme and out of character, yet not totally out of the question?

Do people prefer to be engaged over disengaged? I believe they do and I know I’m not alone. If this is true, we really need to look for the answers to your question, Les. We must identify and truly understand the root causes of disengagement.

My favorite root cause tool is the Five Whys, because of its simplicity. Nothing magical about asking five times, just keep asking “why” until it doesn’t make sense to ask any more.  If you haven’t heard of it before, it goes like this:


Jimmy hurt his back.

                WHY did Jimmy hurt his back?

He slipped on some oil on the floor.

                WHY was there oil on the floor?

Because the garbungies were leaking.

                WHY were the garbungies leaking?

Because they have inferior seals.

                WHY are the seals inferior?

Because we have a penny-wise / pound-foolish Purchasing policy!


If it is not our nature to disengage, there must be underlying causes. Ask “why” people may disengage….where do the Five Why’s take us?

What policies are disengagers?

What environmental factors are disengagers?

What leader behaviors are disengagers? (no names please!)

What people practices are disengagers?


And, at what cost disengagement? Reference Shirley’s thread What is an engaging title for a presentation about the cost of dise...




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