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Transactional Analysis

In the 1950s, psychiatrist Eric Berne developed a form of psychoanalysis he called Transactional Analysis. Berne's groundbreaking approach to psychiatry dealt not only with individual behavior, but also examined our dealings -- or transactions -- with other people. A principal concept of Transactional Analysis is that, at any given time, we are in one of three ego states: Parent, Child, or Adult. Ego states are essentially patterns of behavior linked to feelings and experiences we encountered in early childhood. When we behave in ways resembling conduct we witnessed in our own mothers and fathers, we are in the Parent ego state. When emotions recalled from childhood occurrences influence our actions, we are in the Child ego state. We are in the Adult ego state when we behave based on information we have learned and processed through our own experiences. What's more, there are variations of Parent (controlling versus nurturing) and Child (conforming versus rebellious) ego states.

Here's an example of how you might run into the different ego states in your role as a leader. Let's say resistance to a new computer system is causing havoc in your department. A disgruntled employee in the Parent ego state could lecture you about the potential dangers of the new system: "Have you done your homework on this?" A Child might throw a tantrum or bellyache, "I like the old system. Why can't we just keep that one?" Most likely, the Adult would see the new system as inevitable and resolve to adapt to it.

According to Berne, your success in dealing with erratic employee personalities depends on your own current ego state. For instance, if you respond to the Child's whining from your Child ego state, you will only prolong the turmoil. Berne found that the most effective transactions take place when all participants communicate from the Adult ego state. Therefore, understanding and recognizing ego states can help make you a better leader.

However, the Parent-Child-Adult concept is more complicated at work than it was in Berne's day. Not only are you dealing with three primary ego states, you're also faced with a multigenerational workforce. If you're like most leaders, you oversee employees from the Baby Boomer generation, Generation X, and Generation Y. And that introduces generational variations to Transactional Analysis. As an example, I'm a Baby Boomer; my War-generation parents behaved differently in the 1960s than a Gen Yer’s parents acted in the 1990s. Therefore, ego states will vary by generation. Throw in cultural differences and the variations are endless.

How can you possibly know which ego state someone is in? Berne found clues in the verbal and nonverbal language people use. Does the person talking to you sound like a Parent (stern, instructive), Child (selfish, immature) or an Adult (calm, rational)? And whom do you sound like?

It's no wonder that leadership is challenging work. After all, you learned it as a kid.”
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Hi there ….. My name is Herman and I work with Transactional Analysis on a daily basis in the context of young people who get themselves into trouble with the law through the use / abuse of alcohol and illegal substances.

Historically I worked in Corporate Change Management Consulting and I find if fascinating to see how similar the behaviour of a rebellious 16 year old addict and a rebellions 40 year old employee are.

As far as the Baby Boomers, and Generation X and Y concept goes, I would agree that the specific values, beliefs and attitudes differ, but to my understanding the core ‘magic’ of Transactional Analysis lies NOT in the Content – but understanding the Process, or dynamics, irrespective of the content.

I am currently reading a remarkable books on Transactional Analysis with a strong reference to the Corporate world and can recommend it with confidence. It is called ‘The Transactional Manager’ by Abe Wagner.

I also had the privilege of attending a workshop by Abe Wagner at the resent World Transactional Analysis Conference in Johannesburg – South Africa, and would rate Mr Wagner as one of the best trainers I have ever seen. I would also recommend a visit to his website at http://www.abewagner.com/

I hope this adds some value.

Regards - Herman

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