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Causes of Dissatisfation in the Workplace: How to Drive up your teams Happiness & Success

  • Do you suspect that some people on your team are about to hand in their notice?

  • Do you suspect that some people have lost their mojo for their jobs?

  • What’s fuelling their dissatisfaction?

Is it you? Their team mates? The organisation? The Role? Your team culture? Other Opportunities in the market? Or something else? In this blog we will introduce you to a model which will help you open up difficult, but pivotal conversations, and quickly get ‘in tune’ with what your team members are feeling, thus gaining understanding of where social needs are being compromised.

Our strongest emotional reaction is caused by our social needs not being met. Our brains are subliminally scanning for signs that any of these vital ‘Social Needs’ might be at risk. The SCARF model (below) outlines the five key social needs that influence human behaviour and drive motivation and influence.

The SCARF Model in detail:

Status Driven by a focus on strengths not hierarchy. Recognising excellence, thanking people. If someone does something well, make sure you acknowledge it, preferably publicly. Certainty Create an honest, open, vulnerable team culture. Ensure people feel safe to be themselves. Focus on driving trust by giving it. How do you frame mistakes? How do you talk about people behind their backs? Are there secrets on the team? Autonomy Can people choose their own actions? Are they driving parts of projects and trusted to make some of their decisions? Are you taking a coaching approach to leadership? Ask questions rather than telling? Relatedness Encourage collaboration and informal conversations. However, pay special attention to ‘cliques’. They can have a devastating impact on people who are excluded. If there are ‘cliques’ why have they formed? Is it because social needs weren’t met in the team? Fairness Responses to perceived injustice often take the form of acts and campaigns against people which can rage silently for months. To be treated equitably is a primary need for the brain and correlates to trust. Note: if people feel threatened, they may be viewing situations differently to you.

How to use the SCARF Model

You can use this model to open up conversations and to 'move some elephants' into the middle of the room (ideally use this one-to-one or in small groups):

  1. Share the image of the SCARF model.

  2. Talk through each element of it. Giving examples of how each of these social needs might be met or not met within your team. You might want to show how this model might apply by giving examples relevant to you & your organisation. There are more details on each SCARF model element below.

  3. Ask your colleagues to reflect on this model in relation to themselves.

  4. Ask which of these social needs is most important to them at work?

  5. Ask how well each social need is currently being met (or not)?

  6. Ask them to rate their satisfaction with each social need (out of 10).

  7. Try to discover what has driven their scores.

  8. Ask: “Reflecting back across your career, in which roles/teams were your social needs met most effectively?”

  9. Ask them to explain what that looked like day-to-day.

  10. Ask: “What impact did that have on your motivation and performance at that time?”

  11. Ask: “What needs to change for your scores today to improve?”

We are currently running High Performance Team workshops with several leadership teams, exploring the SCARF model, to understand and discuss the triggers for demotivation and disengagement. Crucially, we then go on to identify how to drive re-engagement, genuine connection, great communication and raise motivation.

"Understanding and creating conversations around social needs in the SCARF model has been a great way to open some difficult subjects and navigate some important topics with my team." Senior Leadership Team Member, Healthcare.
"I sensed that there had been something rumbling for a while. I hadn’t realised that an interaction over 6 months ago had caused so much upset. Talking through the SCARF model was a foundational step in creating understanding and starting to re-build trust." Divisional Director, Automotive.

For more information on our High Performance Team Leadership workshops, a brochure or a virtual demo, please email


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