How to apply Transactional Analysis at work

Have you ever heard of the phrase “parent and child relationships” outside of the familial context? Did you know that behaviours learned growing up could apply to different aspects of your life? 

This article looks at Transactional Analysis and how it plays a part in our day to day working lives.

What is Transactional Analysis?

Transactional Analysis was developed in the late 1950s by Eric Berne. The basis of the theory is that everyone has three different ego states: parent, adult, and child. These different ego states can result in a variety of thoughts, behaviours, and feelings, and cause us to have different transactions (or interactions) with people around us.


These behaviours are learned from our parents and other important people that have helped us through our childhoods. The parent ego state can be both critical and supportive.


This is the state that relates to the here and now, rather than things you learned during childhood. This is often thought to be the most rational part of our personality.


The child state is one that goes back to the behaviours learned during our childhoods. Depending on the influences during these early years, the child ego state can be free or strongly linked to parental influences.

Everyday applications of Transactional Analysis

So how can Transactional Analysis appear at work and affect interactions with our colleagues?

The aim of every transaction should be one of adult to adult, the healthiest approach. During an adult-to-adult transaction you are most likely to find that you will talk to each other respectfully and take the time to listen to the other person.

This isn’t always possible to achieve, however, and sometimes you will find yourself angry or annoyed by something a colleague has done. In these circumstances, it is very easy to slip into a child state. This could mean that you end up arguing with that colleague (behaving like a Free Child). You could also find yourself in a Critical Parent mindset and will find yourself telling them off.

Sometimes a parent to child interaction is required and can be healthy. It can be an assertive approach to take and can help ensure that any requests are met. It can, of course, be equally unhealthy.

Other forms of transactions include more social adult to adult interactions, which is when you take down time from your task to have a conversation about the weather, the football, or a book that you are reading. Child to child transactions can also be great when you need creative minds that will come up with new and innovate ideas.

When it comes to Transactional Analysis, perhaps the best approach is to be aware of the interactions that you have, and whether they could be improved. You may find that whilst you think you are firmly in adult mode, you may, in fact, be in parent mode.

By being aware of the various subconscious roles we play at work (and other) interactions, we can more easily identify our own common triggers and pitfalls, as well as our personal strengths, and modify our behaviour accordingly.

Having a full understanding of your role and responsibilities can ease frustrations at work and with your colleagues.   

Within MBE’s Actuarial Performance Management (APM™) Framework, the People, Roles & Responsibilities Enabler helps you to develop, manage and leverage actuarial potential at an individual, team and organisational level, and helps you embed a robust actuarial performance-driven culture and growth mindset.  

Contact us to find how the APM Framework can help you transform your actuarial operation through the complimentary Assessment.

The post was updated on 29th September 2021

Rachel Long