Transactional Analysis

Transactional analysis occurs when social interactions (or "transactions") are analyzed to determine the state of communicators as a basis for understanding behavior. In transactional analysis, the communicator (adult, parent, child) is taught to alter the ego state to solve emotional problems.



I am a professional observer of human behavior in the workplace. From my role with the Winter Olympics in SLC to a local airline where I trained pilots, flight attendants and call center staff on connecting with customers, to most recently, our custom work with Aqua-Tots.  


We are not trained to communicate in an adult adult environment. Most likely our first job is in high school.  Mine was Dairy Queen then Paul Harris. I was never taught how to interact with adults. Dairy Queen was safe because the counter was a great barrier. Paul Harris was threatening because standing in the front and not having anything to do was SCARY. And by the way, adults are intimidating.  


It was no different when observing the behavior of the FXs (Front Desk/Sales Associates) at an Aqua-Tots location, a cash wrap serving as a shield of protection and safety from a threatening interaction. As humans, when we feel threatened, we lose sight of logic (i.e., this person is coming into our space, our home) and respond in a way that is similar to being under attack (paralyzed).


This particular Aqua-Tots was about to remove all cash wraps and go to standing stations. This immediately reminded me of a scene from the movie, Talladega Nights, when Ricky Bobby was being interviewed for the first time, and he said, “I am not sure what to do with my hands.” Now, this is no fault of the staff you are hiring, but we have to realize that the jump from being a child to an adult is a big jump. Not impossible.  


The below graph explains the different phases of the Ego in Transactional Analysis. A lot of what we hire and experience in retail is the child state on the floor and owners step into the parent role rather than what needs to happen in a healthy environment are Adult Adult interactions. From employer to employee and then from employee to customer.  


This takes work. And a lot of training. How do we teach the ability to think and determine action, based on received data? It starts with self and being real in your leadership style. Are you parenting your staff? Or are you interacting in an adult relationship?  I have coached many national and regional sales reps of major brands as well as owners and managers who manage adult employees with child-like egos and tendencies. It is complex.  Understanding when you need to take responsibility for the result of another person or when you need to allow your team member to feel the pressure is a fine balance.


To influence retail to the next level, we have to understand our barrier to entry is low. If we know and agree this is a fact we can do a better job of teaching the child-like egos into adult-adult competent interactions.



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