How Understanding Transactional Analysis Can Help Office-Based Leaders Be Successful

Have you ever had an interaction with one of your employees where it’s felt like they were a naughty child and you were the frustrated parent? It’s a frustrating but all too common pattern that workplace interactions fall into. But why do the dynamics end up like this and how can you improve communication and relationships in the workplace?

Transactional Analysis can help.

Here’s a guide to what Transactional Analysis is and how our ego state impacts our interactions.

What is Transactional Analysis?

Transactional Analysis is a theory of human relationships that was founded by psychiatrist Eric Berne in the late 1950s. The basis of the theory is that we all have three separate ego states that determine how we express ourselves, how we interact with each other, and how we form relationships. These three ‘ego states’ are:

  • The parent: These are thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that we learn from our parents or other people who are important in our lives. This ego state can be nurturing or critical.
  • The adult: This is our rational self, what we think and do in the here and now. This is not influenced by our past experiences or conditioning.
  • The child: These are behaviours learned from when we were young, such as acting out or sulking when we didn’t get what we wanted.

How Transactional Analysis helps us understand our relationships with others

We unconsciously change between these different ‘ego states’ all of the time. Once you understand this, you can develop an awareness about which ego state you and someone else are adopting at any one time and you can work to change the dynamic into something more positive.

What examples of Transactional analysis might you see in the workplace?

Complementary Transactions (adult to adult transactions)

Imagine that you and a team member are looking at a project that didn’t go as you had hoped. If you in your adult ego state rationally suggest to them “okay, let’s work out what happened here” and they reply, “yes, let’s work together and get to the bottom of this,” this is a complementary transaction. Your ego states match and this is an example of when communication is well made, well-received, and successful.

Crossed Transactions

This is when you’re communicating with someone and your ego states don’t match. You could be in your adult ego state, expecting an adult response, but if your employee is in the child ego state, this can be a problem. You could very politely speak to them about being late for work, and if they are in the child ego state, all they will hear is a ‘parent’ criticising them. They’d probably reply with something ‘why are you always on my back and nobody else’s?’ or ‘why are you always picking on me?’

Transactional Analysis: The ideal

In an ideal world, leaders and managers would be trained to recognise the ego state they and others are in at any given time, so they can adapt and choose healthier ways to interact.

For example, if you find yourself slipping into parent mode often with employees, having an awareness of the ego state you’re operating from will stop you from doing so and you’ll become a more effective and respected leader.

Of course, sometimes things happen in the workplace that really annoy you or someone else. In these circumstances, it can be very easy to become a sullen child or a critical parent. This can lead to the employee feeling aggrieved as they are being told what to do. Or they feel you are having a tantrum with them.

Experience has shown me, managers often resort to parent ego. This is detrimental to the business as then you find employees lose the ability to show initiative and to think for themselves. A sign of this can be when the manager is absent and the tasks that need doing, fail to be achieved. Another sign is when managers do the task rather than delegate.

So it all comes down to having awareness when you’re interacting with others and taking that pause to think about what needs to happen here so that we communicate well?

We all play a role in all of our interactions, which do you play, and how does it impact on your team?

Food for thought.

Let’s chat!

I help female company Directors just like you to feel confident in their team and content with the way the team runs every day. My goal is to create a less frazzled life for you by offering you and your team mentoring and workshops tailored completely to your needs. A successful business is built on the foundations of a high-performing, harmonious team.

Contact me to find out how I can help you create the business of your dreams, from the bottom up.

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