In the first part of this blog piece, I explained the Transactional Analysis model in detail.
In this piece, we explore how the model can be used to better understand behaviours in the workplace and how being aware of the theory behind TA can help us change our own behaviours in order to improve our interactions with others.
How does it show up in the workplace?
In the workplace, we can see examples of transactional analysis at all levels, such as between supervisors and employees, among co-workers and colleagues and between department heads of an organisation.
Successful communication requires complementary transactions. This involves one person initiating a conversation in one of the three ego states, such as parent-to-child, and the respondent sending a reply back to the sending ego state, such as child-to-adult.
For example, a supervisor communicates in the parent-to-child ego when he reprimands an employee for being late. If the employee responds by apologizing and saying it won’t happen again, the employee is in the child-to-parent ego state and the result is a complementary transaction.
Also, consider two co-workers evaluating a failed project. If one person sends an adult-to-adult message of “Let’s figure out what went wrong,” a complementary adult-to-adult response from the other would be “Yes, let’s get to work and find out what happened.”
Crossed transactions can take place between a supervisor and employee or between employees themselves. When crossed transactions occur, a break in communication likely results unless one person shifts his response to a complementary ego state. This may happen when the receiver forms the wrong impression about the sender’s message or responds in a different ego state to what was expected.
For example, a manager in the adult-to-adult state might rationally ask an employee about a mistake in a report the employee composed. A crossed transaction occurs if the employee responds using the child-to-parent ego and complains, “Why are you always criticising my work?”
Raising awareness and supporting leaders to recognise and be mindful of the ego state they are operating from enables them to strive to interact from an ‘I’m ok – you’re ok’ standpoint. This Adult to Adult transaction prevents them from slipping into Parent mode (which many leaders find themselves in), or into Child mode where they become too friendly and close with their teams. Both of these inhibit their ability to lead their organisations effectively and objectively.
How does TA impact communication between colleagues?
Interactions that happen between colleagues are a vital symptom of a business’ health and contribute to your organisation’s culture and values.
The aim of every transaction should be one of adult to adult, the healthiest approach. During an adult to adult transaction you are most likely to find that you will talk to each other respectfully and take the time to listen to the other person.
This isn’t always possible to achieve, however, and sometimes people will find themselves angry or annoyed by something a colleague has done. In these circumstances, it is very easy to slip into a child state. This could mean that they end up arguing with that colleague (behaving like a Free Child). Or they could find themselves in a Critical Parent mind-set, whereby they tell them off.
Sometimes a parent to child interaction is required and can be healthy. It can be an assertive approach to take and can help ensure that any requests are met. It can, of course, be equally unhealthy.
Other forms of transactions include more social adult to adult interactions, which is when you take down-time from your task to have a conversation about the weather, the football or a book that you are reading. Child to child transactions can also be great when you need creative minds that will come up with new and innovative ideas.
When it comes to Transactional Analysis in the workplace, the best idea is to be aware of the interactions that you have, and whether or not they could be improved. You may find that whilst you think you are firmly in adult mode, you may, in fact, be in parent mode.
By being aware of the various subconscious roles we play in our workplace (and other) interactions, we can more easily identify our own common triggers and pitfalls, as well as our personal strengths, and modify our behaviour accordingly.
So then, there is a win-win in which the world can be made out of sweets – lemon sherbet anyone?
If you’d like to explore more about communication in your organisation or team, a tailored coaching programme or any other aspect of leadership development, I would love to hear from you – firstname.lastname@example.org