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How to Respond with Grace and Resolve When Teammates Disengage

Isolation and disengagement may be normal in the short-term. Things happen.

Patterns of disengagement fracture teams.

7 reasons people disengage:

#1. They want something.

Shutting others out may be a message, “I’m not getting what I want and I don’t like it.” It’s a strategy we used when we were little. Do you remember scooping up your toys and running home because things didn’t go the way you wanted?

#2. They feel guilty.

Guilt makes some people pull away. Are they hiding something? Did they screw up?

#3. They hurt.

For better or worse, disengagement may mean they’re hurting and they want some time alone.

#4. They need time to think.

Some people make up their minds slowly. For those who ‘build the airplane in the air’, it’s hard to accept that some people think before they act.

#5. They wonder if you care.

Disengagement may be an individual’s way of seeing if you care.

#6. They feel threatened.

#7. They are manipulative.

Grace and resolve when teammates disengage:

#1. Back off.

Give space when people who normally are engaged pull back. Wait a day or two to see if they return to normal.

Note: Don’t back off when issues are crucial. The success of the team takes priority over the comfort or distress of the individual.

#2. Say what you see.

Name the behavior. Don’t judge it. “I notice that you seem quiet the last couple days. I could be wrong, but I’m wondering if things are OK?” 

#3. Ask what they need.

“I notice you seem quiet lately. I wonder if you need something?”

#4. Circle back if disengagement persists.

Follow up  when things don’t change up. Avoid the temptation to just move on.

#5. Stay on topic.

Don’t allow manipulative team members to distract you from organizational imperatives.

What makes some people pull back?

How might leaders respond with grace and resolve when teammates disengage?

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