What Is a Transactional Analysis in Organization?

A businessman devising a plan on a whiteboard.
A businessman devising a plan on a whiteboard. (Image: Todd Warnock/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Transactional analysis is organizational at its root. Transaction, in this case, refers to people in conflict within an organizational structure. They must work together rather than combat each other. Therefore, this sort of analysis is primarily used as a tool to resolve and avoid conflicts through two forms of concepts: ego types and life situations.

Organizational Conflict

Eric Berne developed the first concept of transactional analysis dealing with ego types in 1964. Its primary purpose is to identify the types of people involved in conflict, and, given the nature of their personalities, either avoid conflict or resolve it. The ego types are the raw material of transactional analysis and are the main concepts used in it.

Ego Types

Egos come in three definitive types. The first is the “parental” ego and has a paternalistic sense of superiority. The second is the “adult” ego, and is typified by a sense of equality, which in turn, creates the stage for rational discussion. Finally, the “child” ego is dependent and often rebellious -- often for its own sake. These ego types are merely descriptive categories and do not, in themselves, imply a judgment about their applicability. These, of course, all refer to adults biologically -- but adults with different concepts of themselves.

Life Positions

Later developments in transactional analysis expanded on Berne's original concepts and added “life situations” to this approach. There are four different types of situations covered by transactional analysis that cause the most conflict -- adult-adult, child-child, parent-child and child-parent. These, in other words, are the situations that are most likely to harm the function of an organization.


The first thing a transactional analyst does is determine the nature of the ego states involved in any dispute. Two children are terrible, since they fight often and for no reason. Two adults are usually well adjusted, since they can work problems out rationally. Parent-adult conflict can be as serious as the adult-child confrontation. In both cases, there is a lack of proportion. The parent is looking down on an adult who sees himself as an equal to the “parent” style ego. The child has no sense of rational discourse, so he exasperates the adult. Two parents, as well, seek to dominate the other, meaning there is never-ending conflict.

Human Resources' Role

The human resources department of an organization wants to match proper personality types in the proper proportion. This would include the best matches of adult with adult and children with parents. These are natural and proportional relations. If these ego types make up the bulk of the relations in an organization, conflict will be largely avoided.

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