Date of Conferral







Labrina M. Jones


In 2018, only 34% of U.S. workers reported that they were engaged in their jobs, up from 31.5% just 4 years prior. Employee engagement, organizational well-being, and leader actions are significant to companies and brands in a highly competitive, modern business environment. The alarmingly low rate of employee engagement resulted from negative perceptions of leaders. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the phenomenon of disengagement through the lived experiences of employees in the public sector who had negative perceptions of their leaders. The conceptual lens was Herzberg’s theory mapped onto Maslow’s hierarchy to address the research question that focused on the lived experiences of participants. Data were collected from 20 participants who were full-time federal employees in a medium-sized organization in Washington, DC, through face-to-face interviews. The data were analyzed by categorization, two levels of coding, and thematic analysis. The findings showed that the employees worked in a highly stressful environment where they looked to their leaders for guidance and recognition. Employees often perceived the leaders were lackluster and impersonal, rarely acknowledging employee contributions. Employees resorted to intrinsic motivation and engagement rather than from leadership. Researching other federal agencies may provide a deeper understanding of workers’ critical engagement issues. The results of this study may help leaders become more aware of the impact of negative workplace experiences on the well-being and performance of employees, which could lead to addressing and rewarding employee contributions that ultimately benefit the organization, employees and the community it serves.