Transactional Analysis (TA) works from the premise that 3 ego states - Parent, Adult, Child - govern our behavior.
- When we express major emotion, we are working from the Child state.
- When we are working without major emotions, we are working from the Adult state.
- When we are treating other adults like children, we are working from the Parent state.
Let's say that I supervise 3 people and have asked them to help with the physical redesign of our office space to accommodate a shift in our function and activities. Two staff start discussing possible layouts while the 3rd sits with his arms folded across his chest and says nothing. When asked for his input, he says it's my job, not his, to redesign the office layout.
At this point, the three of us engaged in the discussion are having an Adult-to-Adult transaction. Our egos are in check and we are directing our efforts toward a group goal of making our environment more effective.
The 3rd staffer is having a Child-to-Adult transaction by acting childlike in his reaction to the task. If I respond by treating him like a Child - scolding or yelling - then I am taking on the Parent state.
The goal is for me to respond from the Adult state, treating him like an Adult, despite his acting like a Child. I could point out that having a say in the decisions about layout will make the workplace more suitable for his needs and that I'd like everyone's ideas before moving on. If he responds from an Adult ego state, we can move on. If he stays in the Child ego state, I must remain in the Adult ego state and continue without him; reserving a meeting time for him later where we can discuss his inappropriate work behavior.
TA encourages Adult-to-Adult transactions for a more effective work environment. While there is much more to TA than this simple example, it is a start. Many supervisors forget that they must set the example and work from the Adult ego state. In this example, I would have to get more into the sub-layers of the ego states if the 3rd staffer needed further follow-up on his lack of participation.