Transactional Analysis and Dysfunctional Behavior

Transactional Analysis: Transactional analysis is a social psychology developed by Eric Berne during the 1960s, which has further evolved over the past four decades to include applications to psychotherapy, counseling, education and organizational development. Transactional Analysis (or TA as it is often called) is a model of people and relationships and is based on two notions: first that we have three parts or ‘ego-states’ to our ‘personality. The other assumption is that these converse with one another in ‘transactions’.

Transactional Analysis helps people identify their ego states, recognize the inner dialogues between ego states, evaluate and improve the ways in which their ego states function, especially those that involve a harsh demeaning Parent, to recognize the games that people play and to help them stop playing games and get strokes in a spontaneous aware and intimate and manner, provides permission to change and protection against the anxiety that change creates. Stopping the playing of games is the first step in eventually replacing them with direct and honest interactions, eventually abandoning the dysfunctional life script.

TA‘s efficient, yet insightful, contractual method makes it ideally suited to understand, predict and help improve dysfunctional, unproductive, toxic, uncooperative interactions between people and can quickly help people communicate clearly and effectively at the three levels of the Parent (values,) the Adult (rationality) and the Child (emotions, creativity). TA is a theory of personality and uses the ego-state (Parent-Adult-Child) model to describe how people are structured psychologically. This same model helps understand how people function and express themselves in their behaviour.

As a theory of communication, it extends to a method of analyzing systems and organisations. It offers a theory for child development and introduces the idea of a “Life (or Childhood) Script”, i. e. , a story one perceives about one‘s own life, to answer questions such as “What matters”, “How do I get along in life” and “What kind of person am I”. This story, is often stuck no matter what the consequences, to “prove” one is right, even at the cost of pain, compulsion, self-defeating behaviour and other dysfunction. Key Ideas in Transactional Analysis Ego States – The human personality is made up of three “ego tates”; each of which is an entire system of thought, feeling, and behavior from which we interact with each other. The Parent, Adult and Child ego states and the interaction between them form the foundation of transactional analysis theory. These concepts have spread into many areas of therapy, education, and consulting as practiced today. Transactions – Transactions refer to the communication exchanges between people. Transactional analysts are trained to recognize which ego states people are transacting from and to follow the transactional sequences so they can intervene and improve the quality and effectiveness of communication.

Strokes – People need strokes, the unit of human contact and recognition for psychological and eventually physical survival, just as they need food, water and air. Understanding how people give and receive positive and negative strokes and changing unhealthy patterns of stroking are powerful aspects of work in transactional analysis. Games People Play – Berne codified socially dysfunctional behavior patterns in terms of the “games” that people play. Games are essentially devious, toxic and sometimes deadly methods of obtaining “strokes”.

These repetitive stroke-gathering interactions are the building blocks of people’s life scripts. Life Script – Berne proposed that dysfunctional behavior is the result of self-limiting decisions made in childhood in the interest of survival. Such decisions culminate in the “life script,” the pre-conscious life plan that governs the way life is lived out. They determine the dysfunctional roles (Rescuer, Persecutor, Victim) which people fall upon throughout life unless they are changed or “re-decided,” or unless the person “closes down the show and puts on a new (aware, autonomous, intimate, in short OK) one on the road. Changing the life script and replacing violent organizational or societal scripting with cooperative non-violent behavior is the aim of transactional analysis. I’m OK – You’re OK – “I’m OK – You’re OK” is probably the best-known expression of the purpose of transactional analysis: to establish and reinforce the position that recognizes the value and worth of every person. Transactional analysts regard people as basically “OK” and thus capable of change, growth, and healthy interactions.

Contracts – Transactional analysis practice is based upon mutual contracting for change. Transactional analysts view people as capable of deciding what they want for their lives. Accordingly transactional analysis does its work on a contractual basis between the client and the therapist, educator, or consultant. The three components of organizational architecture are: the assignment of decision rights, the methods of rewarding individuals, and the structure of systems to evaluate the performance of both individual and business units.

These three components are instrumental to the successful operation of an organization. However, the lack of one or more of these components can cause dysfunctional behavior at an organization. All organizations tend to perpetuate dysfunctional behaviors within certain parameters. As long as the behaviors are limited, they may not hurt the organization too much. When they take over or influence critical areas, they can become major problems in an organization. These behaviors are functional for the individual and help them ? get along? ithin the environment but dysfunctional for optimum organizational performance. Every organization has unspoken rules that are designed to protect people from accountability. Internal norms may be counter-productive to the organizational mission. Identifying and changing problematic norms is essential to creating a high performance organization. Examples might include systems where people protect, defend or hide bad behavior in the interest of getting along even when the behavior can have major detrimental effects on the environment.

The company’s methods of rewarding individuals are another component of organizational architecture that has caused dysfunctional behavior within the organization. For example, in my company, individuals are ridiculed publicly by their bosses, without being provided an opportunity to either present their position or seek clarifications. At times, even an individual‘s supervisor is seen being reprimanded by his boss in individual‘s presence. This gives a feeling of lost respect, leading to low confidence, low productivity, mistakes with eventual resignation or firing from the job.

This can be avoided by – Approaching the individual in person, privately. Don’t confront someone where everyone can hear or when there are other people present. Don’t take the easy way out and send an email or leave a note. This looks cowardly from a manager. Schedule a meeting with the person to discuss the problem and consequences. – State the cause of the problem. This is important to make sure everyone is on the same page because the person may think the behavior is alright. Or, perhaps a false accusation was made. – Make sure the person knows why it is a problem.

At the same time, make sure the person knows how their behavior is dysfunctional. Point it out in the employee handbook as well, or any type of document they may have signed stating they read and understood it. – Follow through with consequences. If there is a zero-tolerance policy on something, be prepared to follow through with termination. Not disciplining employees or ignoring dysfunctional behavior could make you liable as well should another employee choose a legal option, if the actions were bad enough. It is important that you develop an atmosphere within the office that is free of conflict.

The above will help dealing with dysfunctional behavior in the workplace. Transactional Analysis is a powerful tool in the hands of organizational development specialists, in relationships and at work. By presenting the basic concepts of transactional analysis and using it as the basic theory to under gird the objectives, a common strategy can be build for organizational development and to address the particular needs of organizations to eliminate dysfunctional organizational behaviours, establish and reinforce positive relationship styles and healthy functioning.

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