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Uncovering the four forces of employee disengagement

Employee disengagement

Posted by: sabine-robinson

Bite-sized conversations - Realising Potential

At RPX2 Ltd, we are passionate about helping people and companies realise their potential.

In this latest episode of the ‘Bite-sized conversations – What makes people tick?‘ at Realising Potential Fiona Brookwell and Michael Jones examine the four critical factors within an organisation that may detrimentally affect employee engagement and retention.

Do you reflect on the impact that the values, workplace dynamics and relationships at your organisation might have on your people? In this latest conversation, Fiona and Michael discuss the four common areas of disconnect that often prompt individuals to either leave an organisation or become disengaged, potentially resulting in dismissal.

Their discussion delves into scenarios when employees may encounter one or several areas of dissatisfaction in their workplace. Their performance could drop resulting in disciplinary action or eventually dismissal. Alternatively, they may choose to leave of their own volition.

Tune in to find out more about the four forces of employee disengagement.

To explore more about the services discussed in the episode, please visit



Four forces of employee disengagement

If you’d prefer to read a transcript, here is a summary of the conversation:

Neale James: Here’s what’s on today’s edition of Realising Potential with Fiona Brookwell and Michael Jones.

Michael Jones: People tend to leave organisations, or they’re not excited by belonging to an organisation, for one of only four reasons.

Fiona Brookwell: These are often reasons why we might fire people, organisations might actually fire people, or people choose to leave of their own volition.

Michael Jones: I think it’s a truism that, you know, people don’t leave organisations, they leave managers.

Fiona Brookwell: All of a sudden, you’re waking up one morning, and you think, hold on a minute, this is not the organisation I joined.

Neale James: Michael, employee retention is a challenge. But, why does it keep employers up at night?

Michael Jones: I’m not sure it does keep all employers up at night.

Because I think some people just accept that, you know, people come, people go. But it certainly is something, I think, that’s getting more of a focus in the client organisations that we’re working with.

Particularly, in this current environment where people have a lot more options open to them since the pandemic, and there is much more of a need to engage with the organisation that employs them and to find an organisation that meets with their own sense of belonging and their own values.

I think retaining people is really easy, but of course, I’m not charged with doing that. I’m somebody that just looks in from the outside. But I think people tend to leave organisations – or they’re not excited by belonging to an organisation – for one of only four reasons. And we talk about them, these four forces of disengagement. They’re very simple and they’re very straightforward.

I challenge anybody really to come up with a reason that doesn’t fit into one of these four categories. And those four categories are: I don’t like my job. Secondly, I don’t like my manager, or my manager doesn’t get me perhaps. Thirdly, I don’t like the team I’m part of. I don’t fit in. I don’t belong. And fourthly, I don’t like the organisation.

The organisational culture or values doesn’t work for me. So, we talk a lot about those being the four forces of disengagement.

Fiona Brookwell: Yeah, I completely agree with you. And these are often reasons why we might fire people. Organisations might actually fire people, or people choose to leave of their own volition.

And, you know, as Michael says, you know, it’s either I don’t like my job and, or actually I’m not qualified to do my job. I’m not actually very good at it. So, if you’re going to get fired, it could be because technically you’re not actually competent to do your job. If you’re going to leave, it could be I just actually don’t like my job anymore, or I don’t feel that my manager supports me with the training I need to do my job effectively.

Then as Michael said, you know, my boss, they don’t like me. I don’t like them. There’s a personality clash. I mean, how many times do we hear, and we see, about big bust ups, boardroom bust ups, etcetera, personality clashes and people leaving, you know, partnerships or engagements or whatever, because of personality clashes.

We hear about it time and time again.

Michael Jones: I think it’s a truism that, you know, people don’t leave organisations, they leave managers. And I think, you know, that it is a truism. Um, and of course the reality is, and here’s a whole separate topic, you know, about managers managing other people. Because, you know, sometimes we expect somebody who’s been a great contributor to go to bed one night and wake up the next morning as a fully formed manager because we’ve given them that title. And it’s a big challenge sometimes for managers to realise that they are managing people who are different to them, that their behavioural drives are different to the people that they manage, and we’re often led to believe – and we talk about this a lot – that we should manage people like we’d expect to be managed ourselves. And we say, and have been saying for years, that’s nonsense because you should manage people like they expect to be managed.

Fiona Brookwell: They need to be managed as individuals.

Michael Jones: This is often part of the problem why people leave managers. Because my manager doesn’t get me. Doesn’t see what I need in order to be effective at what I do. So actually, I might be suited and experienced and knowledgeable for the job, but the way that my manager is managing me in the job is not giving me what I need.

Fiona Brookwell: Yeah, it’s switching me off rather than switching me on.

And then of course you move on to the third one that Michael mentioned, the team piece, you know. I don’t feel part of this team. This team is not making me feel welcome, or I don’t know where I fit in with the team, or I don’t understand my role within the team. For some reason there is a clash within the team, again, often personality clashes within the team.

And then the fourth one, Michael mentioned about the organisational culture. And, you know, I’m sure most people will relate to, you know, joining an organisation because you were interviewed by who was going to be an inspirational boss and you completely bought into the message that this organisation was selling you in terms of their purpose and their journey, and what they were aiming for and their ethos.

Um, and you joined that. And of course, five, six years later, that boss has left, and the direction of the company has changed, and new leaders have come in and the values and the ethos has changed. And all of a sudden, you’re waking up one morning, you think, hold on a minute, this is not the organisation I joined.

I don’t quite know what it is, but it just doesn’t feel the same as it was when I joined it. And the challenge is, if we have one area of disconnect, then we can often get over that, you know. The reality is I don’t really get on with my boss, but I absolutely love my team that I’m part of. I absolutely love the company that I’m part of.

So, if we have one area of disconnect, then we can often get over that. You know, I, I love my boss and my job. I’m just a bit uncomfortable in, but the team’s great and the company’s great. And I must ask my boss for a bit more training on such and such. So, one area of disconnect, we can often get over that hurdle.

If there’s more than one area of disconnect, then that’s when we start getting challenged.

Michael Jones: A client contact of mine asked me to come in and talk to the HR team. It was a big team of about 15 people, um, about what we do. And I started talking about these four forces of disengagement and I was talking about, you know, there’s only four reasons why people tend to be disengaged.

And I was in full flow, and I looked down at my contact and noticed that she was crying.  Her eyes were filling, and I did my piece and, um, I finished and took her to one side afterwards and said to her: ‘What’s the matter?’ She went: ‘I hate my job. My manager doesn’t get me. The organisation doesn’t work for me anymore.’

And she literally resigned the next day because, picking up the point that Fiona made that, you know, okay, you can deal with one, possibly two of those things. But she had that amazing revelation that it was all four of those things that were uncomfortable for her.

And she said, ‘You know, my position in this organisation is untenable. I, I cannot continue. So, I need to take control of the agenda.’ And she handed in her notice the very next day. She said: ‘You just articulated everything that’s been in my head, and it just made complete sense to me.’

Fiona Brookwell: So, if you’re able to wake up on a Tuesday morning and think to yourself: ‘Great, it’s Tuesday today, you know, what are we off to achieve today?’ and you’re looking forward to the rest of the week, chances are you’re in a good place. And lots of areas of engagement are happening for you. If you’re waking on a Tuesday morning and go: ‘Is it only Tuesday? When is it going to be Friday?’ Have a little think about those four forces of disengagement, your job, your boss, the team you’re part of, and the organisational culture as a whole.

Neale James: Realising Potential with Fiona Brookwell and Michael Jones.  For more information about our services and our organisation visit

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