4. Analysing Transactions: The Units of Communication – Business Communication for Managers

Chapter 4


“The unit of social intercourse is called a transaction. If two or more people encounter each other … sooner or later one of them will speak, or give some other indication of acknowledging the presence of the others. This is called transactional stimulus. Another person will then say or do something which is in some way related to the stimulus, and that is called the transactional response.”


Eric Berne1

After completing this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Be aware of your communication style and that of others.
  • Differentiate between healthy and unhealthy interactions.
  • Understand that people essentially operate from three ego states.

Human personality is multifaceted. The Freudian concepts of id, ego, and superego represent factions that frequently collide with one another to manifest themselves in thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. This theory influenced Eric Berne, who formalized his theory of transactional analysis based on the dimensions of personality. The credit of imparting a “unit” to communication belongs to Berne. He defined transaction as the fundamental unit of social intercourse and stroke as a fundamental unit of social action.

Thus, transactional analysis is the method of studying interactions among individuals. With this definition, Berne defined the basic unit of analysis. In his book I'm OK You're OK, Thomas Harris claimed that with transactional analysis, a new language of psychology had been found.2

As Berne pointed out, when one is analysing transactions, it is important to look beyond words and concentrate on how the message is being conveyed. This takes into account the non-verbal signals that identify the ego state from which the person is communicating. The importance of non-verbal communication was also emphasized by Mehrabian3, another prominent scholar. According to Mehrabian, when an individual is speaking, 7 per cent of the listener's attention is focused on the actual words, 38 per cent on the way the words are delivered (tone, emphasis on certain words, and so on), and 55 per cent on facial expressions. This indicates the degree of importance the listener places on non-verbal communication. At least initially, it can be said that the listener forms an impression based on the non-verbal cues that the speaker uses to influence the audience.

The theory of transactional analysis can be incorporated in the teaching of business communication in the classroom. This tool can help students understand themselves and others better, as well as appreciate the individual strengths and weaknesses of others. With its help, students also learn to adapt their communication styles with those of others, becoming more proficient communicators in turn.

Communication Bytes 4.1

Eric Berne and Sigmund Freud approached communication differently. While the Freudian approach involved questioning patients about themselves, the Berne approach called for direct observation during the time a transaction took place.


Intonation is the vocal emphasis that one places on words. The meaning of a phrase is then extracted from the emphasized words. See the following example, in which the italicized version represents the speaker's actual meaning and thoughts, while the terms in bold signify the words that the speaker stressed.

  • Did he give you a thousand rupees?

    Did he finally give you the money?

  • Did he give you a thousand rupees?

    Was it Mr Brown who gave you the money, or was it somebody else?

  • Did he give you a thousand rupees?

    Did he put the money in your hand or did he just deposit it in your bank account?

    How did he manage to get the money?

  • Did he give you a thousand rupees?

    Of all people, why did he give you the money?

  • Did he give you a thousand rupees?

    Did he give you one thousand rupees, or more?

  • Did he give you a thousand rupees?

    Did he give you a hundred rupees or a thousand rupees?

  • Did he give you a thousand rupees?

    Was the money in Indian currency?


Berne defined a stroke as the fundamental unit of social action. A stroke is a sign of recognition or an acknowledgement. Inspired by the work of René Spitz, a pioneer in the area of child development, Berne introduced the concept of strokes in transactional analysis. Spitz observed that infants deprived of cuddling, touching, and hugging (in other words, infants who did not receive any strokes) were prone to emotional and other difficulties. Berne included positive contact such as smiles, nods, and handshakes as strokes. He also postulated that any stroke, be it positive or negative (which would include frowns, curled lips, and so on), is better than no stroke at all.


The core of transaction analysis is the identification of the three ego states behind each and every transaction. Berne defined an ego state as a consistent pattern of feeling and experience directly related to a corresponding, consistent pattern of behaviour. The development of the concept of ego states has its genesis in a counseling session wherein Berne was treating a 35-year-old lawyer. The lawyer constantly referred to himself as a little boy. In later sessions, he would keep asking Dr Berne whether he was talking to the lawyer or the little boy. This greatly interested Berne, who saw a single individual display “two states.” Berne referred to these states as “Child” and “Adult.” He also identified a third stage, namely, the “Parent” stage, which depended on how the child was exposed to parents. Berne later discovered that these states were present in all patients, and it was more or less a universal phenomenon.

It is significant that the descriptions of the ego states do not correspond to the dictionary definitions. They are also considerably different from the Freudian concepts of the id, ego, and superego states. It may be also noted that biological conditions are irrelevant to these ego states and that individuals shift from one ego state to another in transactions. Berne called these states phenomenological realities, as they were observable and practical, in contrast to the Freudian states, which were theoretical and unobservable.

The three distinct states are called:

  • The parent state
  • The adult stage
  • The child stage

The Parent State

The parent state is produced by the “playback” of recordings in the brain of imposed external events perceived by the person before one's complete understanding of one's surroundings. This might include events from approximately the first five years of one's life. It includes thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behavioural patterns based on messages or lessons learned from parents and other parental or authoritarian sources. It includes words like “should” and “should-not;” “ought” and “ought not;” “always” and “never;” and also prejudiced views (not based on logic or facts) of things such as religion, dress, traditions, work, products, money, raising children, and companies. The parent state also includes nurturing views (sympathetic, caring views), critical views (fault-finding, judgment, condescending views), and other forms of parental authority. This includes expressions such as “do not…,” “you had better…,” “you should…,” “you ought not to behave…” These are accompanied by facial expressions adopted by parents. Thus, this state is comprised of the taught-concepts.

The Child State

The child state is the response to sensory experiences. These are usually in the form of feelings like wonder, fear, exclamation, surprise, glee, and so on. They are attitudes and behavioural patterns based on impulses and feelings that one experiences as a child. This state, thus, is comprised of the felt-concepts. Some phrases one might utter in the child state include the following: “Wow! The cake looks really yummy!” and “Isn't my PowerPoint presentation looking good?”



The child state is the response to sensory experiences. It includes feelings like wonder, surprise, and glee.

Transactional analysis is purely a psychological concept with limited application in business. In business, managing people is extremely important. Hence it is wise to know the psychological underpinnings of communication.
The three ego states are fixed. The three ego states change with time, context, audience, and individual maturity.
Transaction analysis is descriptive. Transaction analysis is predictive. It helps to predict responses and reactions and plan one's communication.

The Adult State

The adult state develops after the child state and the parent state. The adult state helps in retrospection, construction of reality, analysis, and feedback. Thus, only those taught-concepts and felt-concepts are accepted that are applicable and appropriate to the present situation. The adult state allows the child or parent to validate external as well as internal data. Thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behavioural patterns are based on objective analyses of information. The adult state is comprised of the thought-concepts of life. Such statements might start with phrases like “I feel that this…” and “Let us discuss the matter before arriving at a conclusion….”


Transactional analysis involves the identification of the ego state that directs the transaction stimulus and executes the transaction response. There can be nine types of interaction between the three states of parent (P), adult (A), and child (C). Among these three states, the initiator of the transaction is called a transactional stimulus or the agent, while the response is called the transactional response. The nine kinds of interaction are:

  • Parent ↔ Parent
  • Adult ↔ Adult
  • Child ↔ Child
  • Parent ↔ Adult
  • Parent ↔ Child
  • Adult ↔ Parent
  • Adult ↔ Child
  • Child ↔ Parent
  • Child ↔ Adult

Complementary Transactions

Appropriate and expected responses make up healthy transactions and are called complementary transactions. According to Dr Berne, communication will happen if the transactions are complementary. In a diagrammatic representation, the transactions make a parallel line.

Some examples of complementary transaction are:

  • The supervisor (parent state) asks the new recruit whether he was feeling comfortable and the latter (child state) replies in the affirmative.
  • The nervous new recruit (child state) asks the supervisor about the ways he would like the report to be presented and the boss (parent state) guides the new recruit.
  • The child (child state) asks her mother to give her food, and the mother (parent state) readily complies.
  • The critical parent (parent state) advises his teenage son against smoking cigarettes and the son promises to remedy the addiction (adult state).
  • Seema (child state) says to her colleague: “You know the boss really praised my work in front of everybody! I was thrilled.” The colleague (adult state) replies, “Oh that's wonderful! I am so happy for you!”

Crossed Transaction

The transactions that yield unexpected responses are called crossed transactions. These are represented by crossed lines. They are the cause of most difficulties and roadblocks in business, personal, and social situations.

Some examples of crossed transactions are:

  • A wife (child state) asks her husband, “How am I looking?” The husband (adult state) replies, “Oh, I think you should remove the makeup. It's rather excessive, isn't it?”
  • Parent (parent state) advises a young child to always plan her study schedule. The child (adult state) replies that planning is useless and doesn't yield results.
  • Manager (child state) exclaims, “Isn't my PowerPoint presentation for the conference looking good?” to a subordinate. The employee (Adult stage) replies, “I feel that the colours are too bold and you should reduce the number of slides.”

Duplex or Ulterior Transactions

Transactions that seemingly look adult but have hidden or implied meaning behind them are called duplex or ulterior transactions. They have a double purpose, which is why they are called duplex transactions. Diagrammatically, these are represented by broken arrows. For example, the statement, “The boss is especially always pleased with you” is a loaded one. The word “especially” carries a double meaning and the speaker probably thinks that their supervisor is partial towards the person referred to in the statement.


In order to succeed in business, it is imperative to be a good psychologist. It is important to be sensitive to people and perceptive about situations. Seasoned professionals, especially those working in the service, sales, and communication areas rarely rush into presentations until they know the kind of people they are dealing with. They understand that people are inherently different from each other and that one must earn others' trust before a product can sell. People who are successful in the communications field naturally possess excellent communication skills and instinctively know how to influence and persuade people. Their mind absorbs information, events, and experiences much like a camcorder.

Effective transactions result in a good rapport. Rapport serves two functions, namely, making interactions enjoyable and building a personal connection. In some cases, it facilitates greater disclosure and loyalty as well. Transactional analysis, thus, offers an insightful method to remove dysfunctional and inappropriate behaviour and focus people's energies on providing positive strokes. It aims to eliminate the use of toxic language, reduce the games people play, and make people aware of honest communication at the levels of the parent (values), the adult (rationality), and the child (emotions).



Effective transactions result in great rapport. Rapport serves two functions, namely, enjoyable interactions and personal connection.


In the article “The Power of Talk: Who Gets Heard and Why” by Deborah Tannen,4 the advice is to hone one's awareness of different linguistic styles, to develop flexible approaches to meetings, performance reviews, and mentoring, and to adjust one's style to those with whom one is interacting. Dr Tannen defines linguistic styles as the way in which people say what they have to say. Like the turn-taking phenomena where one person speaks and the other listens. Linguistic styles include tone of voice, speed of speaking, pitch and inflection, directness or indirectness, word choice, pacing, pauses, and the use of such elements as jokes, innuendo, humour, stories, questions, and apologies. According to Tannen, language not only communicates ideas but also negotiates relationships. It is through language and its effective use that we establish a rapport with the other person. Her research concluded that people in powerful positions are more likely to reward linguistic styles similar to their own. Tannen also illustrates eight different kinds of speaking—this includes sharing credit (using “we” rather than “I”), asking questions (without any inhibitions), and being indirect (speaking indirectly while directing others, especially subordinates).


One way to understand transactional analysis is by conducting a structural analysis, that is, the analysis of individual personality. It is a method of analysing a person's thoughts, feelings, and behaviour based on the phenomena of ego states.

When interacting with others, people take certain specific psychological positions and conclude any one or more of the following:

  • I am smart.
  • I am nervous.
  • I do not know anything.
  • I am a loser.
  • I know nothing.
  • I know everything.

When thinking about others, people may conclude any one or more of the following:

  • Everybody likes me.
  • They all believe in me.
  • They trust me.
  • They are jealous of me.
  • They are mean.
  • They should not be trusted.

From this, there emerge four life positions:

  • I am good but you are not: The person who thinks this is over-confident, aggressive, brash, and willful to the extent of considering other people to be less capable, competent, and strong.
  • I am good and you are good too: A person who thinks this is assertive, confident, mature, and capable and considers that others might share these same qualities. Thus, there is mutual respect and understanding.
  • I am not good, you are not good: The person who thinks this is passive, shy, unwilling to take risks, and not confident enough. He or she considers others to be the same way.
  • I am not good but you are: The person who thinks this is passive, shy, unwilling to take risks, and not confident enough, but considers others to be supremely confident, more capable, stronger, and more powerful.

Once a position is taken, people seek to keep their world predictable by reinforcing it. Games are played from this life position and scripts are acted out, along the lines of what has been shown in Exhibit 4.1.


There are various methods one might use in order to understand the various ego states.

Child State

The following questions/ideas might prove helpful in determining if one is in the child state:

  • Think of something you did as a child that you still do now.
  • Think of a reaction of yours that was quite childlike in retrospect.
  • Consider if you have acted unreasonable or stubborn recently.

Exhibit 4.1 Changes in Life Positions


Information Bytes 4.1

The game “Why Don't You, Yes But…” is a favourite in the corporate sector. Here is how it goes:

A leader calls a meeting and invites suggestions from the attendees. As soon as he or she is given a suggestion, he or she responds with, “That is a good idea, but it won't work because….” In this manner, each suggestion is met with an elaborate excuse. This goes on until the leader comes up with a chosen idea that is proclaimed as the best decision.

The team has really no option but to agree; the leader, for his or her part feels that he or she has done their bit for promoting participative decision-making.

Parent State

In order to understand whether one is in the parent state, the following questions might be considered:

  • Do you use words like your parents did?
  • Do some parental messages reverberate in your mind?
  • Are you by nature maternal, paternal, or authoritarian?

Adult State

In order to understand whether one is in the adult state, the following line of thought might be helpful:

  • Think of situations where you gathered evidence and then reacted.
  • Think of situations where you prevented yourself from making a hasty judgment.
  • Think of situations where you controlled your feelings and acted in a mature manner.

Structural analysis leads to a process of self-discovery. This helps us to change positions, look for new experiences, and capture them in our memory. A transactional analyst with a strong adult ego state can help another individual strengthen their adult ego state by discarding fixated material from the past and updating the content of the parent and child ego states. The content of the ego states can be updated throughout life with new feelings and ideas based on current reality. The “changed mind” changes the personality structure and is observable in the person's behaviour. Exhibit 4.2 explains this in a nutshell.


Despite the best of intentions, people develop habits that they are not really conscious of. Some of these avoidable habits include:

  • Talking nineteen to the dozen and not giving others a chance to speak is one such habit. Others see people who do this as colossal bores and gradually that person is left all alone.
  • There are certain people who receive (ideas, information, feelings) but do not give. They disclose little, acknowledge rarely, and their compliments are few and far between. This leads to conversation becoming one-way and monotonous. One does not know where one stands with such people and what interests them. In the absence of any reciprocal response, people gradually withdraw from such people.
  • Sometimes listeners steal the topic from the initiator of the conversation. This means that the original speaker does not have a chance to discuss what he or she wanted to. These people are generally ignored because they are not good listeners.
  • There are also people who give unsolicited advice whenever a problem is presented. Their utterances frequently begin with phrases like “Why don't you…,” “When I had this problem…,” “You must…,” and so on. People generally avoid such advisors because they are unable to provide the empathy people are looking for. This, in turn, makes the listener feel inadequate.

Exhibit 4.2 How to Arrive at the Desired New Position

  • Certain people make the mistake of talking confidently about something, even though they are ignorant about the situation. They underestimate the listener's competency and fool themselves into believing that they know much about the topic, situation, or event at hand. This results in people doubting the worthiness and credibility of the person.
  • Some people also have the habit of interrupting others before they finish speaking. This results in the original speaker being annoyed. Assertive speakers may request the person to let them complete their sentences.
  • Sometimes people indulge in direct disagreement while communicating; this is a characteristic trait of aggressive personalities. Phrases like “I do not agree with you” or “You are wrong” might be used by this kind of a person. Generally other people tend to avoid speakers like this. Even healthy discussions might be avoided to minimize unpleasantness.
  • Transaction analysis offers a frame of reference that most people can understand and observe in their lives.
  • Research in the fields of psychology, psychotherapy, and psychiatry corroborates much of the theory propounded by Berne in transactional analysis. Many of Berne's concepts and techniques are applied by psychologists, counselors, educators, and consultants in their respective fields.
  • That transaction is a unit of measure of interpersonal communication (what people do and say to one another) is well established; it also provides a contextual basis to communication, making it more scientific and practical.
  • Berne's observation that the brain functions like a tape recorder to preserve and if necessary repeat experiences in a form recognizable as “ego states” is significant as it explains the reasons why people communicate the way they do.
  • Transactional analysis is a tool of self-awareness that helps bring about positive changes in one's life by fostering healthy interactions. It is also a tool to help one better relate to others. More importantly, it helps uncover the complicated masks that people often wear when dealing with others. It helps people be more comfortable with themselves and others.
  1. Transactional analysis is said to be “an easily understandable yet sophisticated psychological theory about people's thinking, feelings, and behaviour.” Analyse the benefits of transactional analysis to a management professional in light of this statement.
  2. In what ways do you think the theory of transactional analysis is different from the Freudian concept of psychological states?
  3. Enumerate the ways in which transactional analysis can operate as a communication model.
  4. “It is better to give negative strokes than no strokes at all.” Define strokes. Explain the validity of this statement.
  5. Give examples to illustrate how transactional analysis can help to explain communication breakdowns.
  6. “Transactional analysis demonstrates how interpersonal communication can be influenced by intrapersonal communication.” Using examples, explain how crossed transactions differ from complementary transactions.
  7. How can a person's role or roles influence their self concept?
  8. How and why do individuals present different aspects of themselves when communicating with others?
  1. Indicate the probable communication transaction style ego states in each of the instances described. You can select from the following options:
    • Free Child
    • Critical Parent
    • Nurturing Parent
    • Adult

    Instance 1:

    Manager to new recruit: Can you please repeat the instructions that I just gave you? Have you understood what I am saying? Is there anything you don't understand? I want the instructions to be followed exactly as I have dictated.

    Instance 2:

    A: Why didn't you tell me earlier that you will not be able to do the work assigned to you?

    B: I told you that this work is difficult for me.

    A: See Bhaskar, you have to do whatever you are told to do.

    B: In that case, you can go to hell! You are not my senior in any case.

    C to A and B: Why don't we seriously resolve this issue? Apparently there is some misunderstanding.

    Instance 3:

    A to his Manager: You always listen to B and not to me! This is not fair!

    Manager: This is ridiculous A. You know I am fair and impartial; I have evidence that indicts you.

    Instance 4:

    Recruiter: Describe one incident that shows your leadership skills.

    Candidate A: See, here are my testimonials. I was the football captain of the school. These pictures will give you a clear idea of my excellent leadership skills.

    Candidate B: I believe that leadership is learned in more ways than one. More rhetoric does not make a leader. Leadership is action. There are two instances that depict my leadership skills….

    Instance 5:

    Child: Mummy, please look at the picture!

    Parent A: It's not wise to disturb somebody while they are sleeping.

    Parent B: Be quiet and do your work.

    Parent C: Oh wonderful! You paint beautifully.

    Parent D: See even I can paint as well as you can!!


  2. Read the following situations and answer the questions that follow:

    Situation 1:

    Vivek Sharma is a sales representative marketing high-end servers to institutions. He represents a well known multinational firm. Today, he has a meeting with a large account, a client with whom the company has had a long-standing relationship. The company is planning to install three new servers in the client's new facilities and Sharma's firm is one of the important vendors. He is quite confident of “cracking the deal,” as he puts it. Sharma reaches the venue exactly on time. Here is a transcript of the meeting that follows.

    AP: (the client's purchase manager): Oh hello Mr Sharma! Come in, come in. Take a seat. You're from ABC Limited, aren't you?

    VS: Yes, thanks. You see, we have been your suppliers for high-end servers for the past 5 years.

    AP: Oh, you were the ones who supplied us with those servers?

    VS: Yes. There were absolutely no complaints about them. That is why I believe you should opt for us as the preferred vendors for your new servers.

    AP: Well, I can say that you're wrong there. Our log shows that there were no less than seven issues with those specific servers, and reports reveal that we had a great deal of downtime. Please check your records.

    VS: I can assure you that our records are in place. You must be confusing us with some other firm. Please check with Mr Sahai of your company. We were dealing with him before this.

    AP: Confused? Oh no. I assure you that our records are in place. I do not know what arrangement you had with Mr Sahai, but right now I am heading the department and…

    VS: Oh, we did not have any arrangement as such…

    AP: Well, all I have to say is that we faced a lot of service issues with your firm and we would like this to be sorted out before any further discussion. Do get me in touch with a senior manager and I would like to renegotiate terms with ABC Limited before we arrive at a concrete deal.


    • Did the meeting go as planned? What do you think went wrong?
    • Comment on the ego states used by VS and AP.
    • Suggest alternate transactions for the dialogue in the given passage.
    • How is transactional analysis useful for sales professionals?

    Situation 2:

    It's time for the annual performance review. Sarvesh Bahri is the HR manager who is interviewing the new management trainee, Krishna S. The time has come for the confirmation of the new trainees, and this interview is important for Krishna. Here is the transcript of the appraisal interview. (SB is the HR manager and KS is the trainee.)

    SB: Come in Krishna. Please be seated. How have you been? I have not seen you since you joined. I conducted your campus interview, didn't I?

    KS: I am good, Sir. It's a pleasure to meet you. Yes, I recall that you conducted my selection interview. I really enjoyed being interviewed by you. I still remember your question on the Industrial Disputes Act. You really got me there…

    SB: Oh, you do? Well, I have your reports here from your branch head, and he has indicated a few areas where improvement is needed…

    KS (interrupting him): Improvement…? Well, whenever I worked with him he always encouraged me. In fact, he praised my handling of the press conference just the other day.

    SB: Let me complete my sentence, Krishna. Unless we know our weaknesses, we cannot work on them and improve.

    KB: But surely he must have mentioned some good points too.

    SB: Of course! He has praised your sincerity, professional attitude, and dedication to our organization. However, having said that, the areas to improve are punctuality, timeliness in submissions, and interpersonal relationships.

    KB: Interpersonal relationships? But I have good relationships with everybody. They all like me.

    SB: But the manager informed me that you tend to be self-centered and arrogant at times.

    KS: That's not fair, Sir. I'm sure Vishakha must have had a hand in this. She isn't particularly fond of me. And for no reason at all!

    SB: Well, Krishna, there is no need to blame anybody. As you know, relationships are very important and perception becomes reality after some time. Well, that's about it. I will give you my feedback on this soon. Take care. Bye!


    • If you were Krishna, how would you have handled the interview?
    • Analyse the ego states in the transactions that took place in the given situation.
    • How is knowledge of transactional analysis useful in a performance appraisal interview?

    Situation 3:

    The campus recruitment process has begun and all the students of this leading business school are on tenterhooks. Lateral placements are the ones that are being keenly contested, with most experienced professionals looking to “crack” them, as the popular lingo goes. Abhijeet Bhatia is one such candidate. An engineer by qualification, he worked with Indian Oil Company, a public sector enterprise, for nearly four years before joining the post-graduate course in management. He is scheduled to appear for an interview with McKinney, a private consultant firm, for the much coveted position of an Associate Consultant. The first round of interviews has been scheduled for today. Only one interviewer is present. His name is Peter Ulmann and he is a Harvard alumnus. Here is the transcript of the interview. (PU is the interviewer and AB is the student.)

    AB: Sir, may I come in please?

    PU: Oh sure. Take a seat.

    AB: How are you Sir?

    PU: Call me Peter, Aabhii-jeet. Did I pronounce your name correctly?

    AB: Actually, it's Abhi-jeet.

    PU: So, tell me Abhijeet…what is it that attracts you to our firm?

    AB: Well, for one, the firm has a reputation of being a very good employer. Moreover, the nature of the job and the offer of posting in London are also quite attractive.

    PU: What do you know about the reputation of the firm? I thought the previous question would make you tell me something about yourself.

    AB (fumbling): Well, I was going to say that Sir…um…Peter. It's just that I have heard a lot about the firm. Everybody feels it's a good place to work.

    PU: You still haven't answered my question.

    AB: Which question would that be Sir…um…Peter?

    PU: Well, forget it. So, you have worked in the public sector, right?

    AB: Yes.

    PU: I have heard about the culture of public sector companies in India. What were your experiences?

    AB (warming up): Sir, the reason I opted for an MBA was because I wanted to work in a private firm where personal capabilities are given due recognition and there is less bureaucratic red tape.

    PU (interrupting him): So, you felt stifled working in IOC? Any bad experiences?

    AB: Plenty. I was the supervisor at the shop floor, and the unionism was very difficult to handle. In addition to that, the system followed in the company was one of command and control. It wasn't my type at all.

    PU: Let's change tracks here. Tell me about some of your strengths.

    AB: Quick decision-making, knowledge about the subject, and ability to quickly grasp the basic issues.

    PU: Well, Abhi-jeet…it was nice to meet you. You will hear from us soon. Do you have any questions you want to ask me?

    AB: Well, Peter…what's the job profile like?

    PU: We have already communicated that to your placement officer. I am sure you would have already seen it.

    AB: Thanks Peter.


    • Critically comment on the process of the interview. Do you think AB could have done a better job?
    • What could have been appropriate transactions on the part of AB? Which ego states were involved?
    • What interview tips can you give AB as far as transactions are concerned?

    Situation 4:

    10 am meetings are a routine feature at Interlay Corporation, a sales firm. The usual agenda consists of a review of the sales visits, sharing experiences, discussing strategies, and so on. Lasting for about an hour, the meetings are led by the branch head, Sanjiv Gupte. The team comprises five to six professionals. They are AB, CD, EF, GH, and IJ. SG is leading the agenda. Here is the edited transcript of one such meeting.

    SG: Hello everybody. Welcome to the meeting. Where is AB? He should be here.

    All: Hello Sanjiv.

    EF: AB, our star performer, is always late. Haven't you noticed?

    SG: Well we can grant some liberties to our star performer. Here you are AB! Come in quickly! We were just talking about you…

    AB: I bet.

    SG: Now let me set the agenda right away. First, the expense for sales calls has shot up considerably. I want to discuss this. Second, client XYZ has expressed displeasure at our service and maintenance. No, do not interrupt me, EF and GH. Let me finish what I have to say. Third, team cohesiveness is a big issue with me. I propose to invite Professor Vaidyanathan from my alma mater to deliver a talk on team building and innovation the day after tomorrow.

    AB: Wow!

    EF: Oh no! That theoretical stuff they teach you at fancy MBA schools! Surely we don't need that Sanjiv!

    IJ: Day after tomorrow is a Sunday; I can't possibly come to work on that day.

    SG: Sorry guys! The meeting's been fixed.

    (Collective groans are heard. Only AB does not say anything.)

    EF: Now can I say something about the service and maintenance issue?

    SG: No. Let's proceed in order. First, let's talk about the expense factor. The entertainment allowance has been exceeding the stated budget. I want an explanation for this. The outstation allowance has also been high and the mobile expense bill has shown a tremendous increase. Any ideas here, guys?

    CD: This is not something extraordinary, Sanjiv.

    SG: I did not say so, CD. Your bills are the highest.

    CD: That is what I am saying, Sanjiv. I think we discussed last time that whenever we are looking for new clients, the mobile bills and other expenses are bound to shoot up. It is more of investment. After my 12 years of service to the company, I can hardly be accused of pilfering.

    SG: Nobody's accusing you…I am just talking generally.

    CD: But just now you said…

    SG: Well, forget it. But do keep track of these expenses as they lower bottom lines and consequently the incentives.

    EF: Can I say something now? Do I have permission?

    SG: Go ahead.

    EF: The client in question is quite tiresome. Ask GH.

    SG: Let's not blame others. Remember, the customer is always king.

    GH (mumbles something): Uh…er…um…

    EF: Well, I wish that you would just listen to us…

    SG: No. You know my stand. The customer is always right. No more complaints.

    EF (shrugging): In that case…

    SG: All right guys. Buck up team. We've got to beat the competitor! Also, remember Professor Vaidyanathan on Sunday! I am getting late for the next meeting. See you all!


    • Analyse the transactions as shown in the transcript. What can you deduce about the communication style of each of the participants and the team lead?
    • What roles do meeting chairs play in conducting meetings?
  3. You are about to leave for the office. Suddenly you hear a loud shriek. Your small child has hurt himself. You tell the day caregiver to fetch the cotton. You console the child, apply medicine, and sit with him for a considerable time. By this time, the child has gone off to sleep. You give the caregiver some instructions and rush to office.

    When you reach your office, your supervisor is waiting for you and gives you a long lecture about the negligence of duty you have expressed by not reporting for work on time.

    After going through the given situation, answer the following questions:

    • What do you think is the best thing to do under the circumstances?
    • Taking into consideration the ego state you are in, how would you have felt as a child if the supervisor had been a parent or a strict teacher?
  4. Reflect on the transactions you've had today with your spouse/partner, parent, supervisor, and co-worker. Now answer the following questions:
    • Evaluate the transaction with the help of a structural diagram. Were there any crossed or ulterior transactions? How did you deal with them?
    • What was your psychological position with respect to the person you were transacting with?


1. Refer to the following Web site: <http://www.businessballs.com/transactionalanalysis.htm> There is a section on the contamination of the ego states. Under what conditions of communication does contamination occur?

  • Eric Berne, Games People Play (New York: Grove Press, 1964).
  • Thomas A. Harris, I'm OK. You're OK (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1967).
  • C. Steiner, Scripts People Live: Transactional Analysis of Life Scripts (New York: Grove Press, 1971).
  • D. Tannen, “The Power of Talk: Who Gets Heard and Why?” Harvard Business Review (September 1995) 138–148.