“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be?”


Marianne Williamson, Author, Teacher

All misbehavior is disengagement and all disengagement is betrayal; a departure from our highest, most loving selves. When we disengage, we fail to meet needs right in front of us because we are operating from discouragement, fear, and feel disempowered, unlovable, disconnected and unable to contribute. I am sharing this with you because to many, including me, the most crazy making and confusing of all misbehaviors is disengagement itself.

Over 70% of the population is partially or fully disengaged, closing hearts in relationships, refusing to risk authenticity, vulnerability and by disowning inspiration and purposeful living. When on the receiving end of disengagement, we feel invisible, alone, invalidated and unworthy, often unable to process what is happening or why.

Here are four specific presentations of disengagement in misbehavior:

1. Active Destructive Misbehavior

This is overt behavior that is destructive to property, persons, routines and relationships. We disengage fully from the love within us. Here are examples:

  • Corporate – An employee spills coffee on important presentation materials of a fellow employee on purpose, sabotaging his project.
  • Education – A teacher says to her students, “Be careful not to make a mess with your glue.” 9-year old Danny puts glue in the hair of another student.
  • Family – A dad is angry with his 7-year old son for hitting his 3-year old sister. Ironically, he spanks his son while saying, “You need to stop hitting people smaller than you!”

2. Active Constructive Misbehavior

When in this, we hide our disengagement and fake our discouragement through misbehavior that appears positive, correct or constructive and is presented actively. This is one of the craziest making types of disengagement. Here are examples:

  • Corporate – You are ready to contribute important ideas at a meeting. A co-worker on your team brings in a totally different plan instead, apologizing but insisting his ideas will work better; he upstages others.
  • Education – A teacher asks students questions, but one student frequently blurts out the answers under the guise of enthusiasm and helpfulness, often robbing others of learning and contributing.
  • Family – A mom is paying bills. Her son brings kisses, hugs, questions, a picture; he constantly interrupts.

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3. Passive Constructive Misbehavior

We disengage in this mode by not giving full effort and hiding behind positive intentions. This is another tough one for even us to recognize when we are doing it. This is when we offer omission and inactivity, but as if intending to be helpful or nice. Here are some examples:

  • Corporate – An employee refuses to do work outside of his job description, acting regretful and powerless.
  • Education – John and Mary are told to clean the play area. Mary starts without John. When asked, “Why isn’t John helping?” Mary says, “I don’t know. He went out to play.” She piously throws him under the bus.
  • Family – A mom is supposed to pick up her daughter after school. She is 20 minutes late again, but apologizes, detailing good deeds she was doing for her that kept her from arriving on time.

4. Passive Destructive Misbehavior

When in this state, we don’t try to sugar coat our behavior but again we disengage, choosing a level of inactivity that is destructive to people and circumstances. Examples are:

  • Corporate – An employee is texting, emailing and gossiping, failing to deliver his work.
  • Education – A group of students stands by while another student is bullied.
  • Family – The electricity is turned off. Mom finds out dad gambled away the money to pay the bill.

Disengagement is a betrayal of trust because it violates the eight values needed to build trust; we fail to be honest, straightforward, receptive, disclose our thoughts and feelings, give respect and recognition, follow through on commitments, or seek excellence. And this is a big deal. The biggest betrayal of all is that when we disengage in any way, we fail to live the whole-hearted lives we were given to enjoy.

Call me at 314.239.4727 if you want help creating conditions that bring out the best in your staff and help you  fully engage in your relationships, your work and your capacity for joy. Or email me: judy@lifeworksystems.com.

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This article was published in the St. Louis Small Business Monthly, September 2016