Once upon a time there was a director who was always angry and feared by all her employees. Everybody was scared of her! When her shrill, loud voice billowed across the department, her employees would cower behind their screens or look for refuge in the bathrooms. And when someone was called to her, they would tremble, their colleagues would see them go with pity in their eyes.

Sounds like a fairy tale, huh? Unfortunately, this was a bitter reality for the employees of a large international company. Maybe it’s your reality too? Do you recognise yourself in the employees or perhaps in the director? I was able to give this director two valuable insights with the help of Transactional Analysis (TA). I would like to share them with you too in this blog.

Unexpected request for help

I was involved as a coach at this company by the director. That may surprise you, but I’ll explain it. The director – let’s call her Sandra – was not satisfied with her employees. She was astonished that, although they all earned a good salary, their work was unsatisfactory. She had no use for them because the creativity seemed to have dried up and they suddenly didn’t have any good ideas anymore. She was furious. I was a bit shook up by it! All red faced she was sitting in front of me at the table. The coaching question I received from Sandra was: “How can I kick them into motion?”

Insight 1: Being angry makes it worse

You can probably imagine how an employee at this company felt. How would you feel? Her angry reactions made employees feel unsafe when they were near Sandra. In an unsafe situation, you retract your shoulders and make yourself small. This was literally happening, as employees crept behind their screen, but also figuratively. If you’re afraid, you cannot think up new ideas and your creativity goes on lockdown. Logical, right?

For Sandra, this was an important insight. She did not realise the impact of her behaviour and how she was maintaining a vicious circle. The harder she yelled, the more scared her employees were, and the angrier she became because they did not work.

Insight 2: Why are you so angry?

Perhaps even more than the impact of his behaviour, the discovery and explanation of where this behaviour came from was Important to Sandra. Why was she always so angry?

During our conversation, it became clear that she found her work extremely important. She would have loved to deliver a high quality product and it had to be great. She was afraid that it would not work out. Her perfectionism stood in her way and she felt powerless because she could not change the situation. Her employees did not perform and she already anticipated the complete failure of her product.

The only way she could make this fear known was by shouting very loudly.

TA offers solutions

TA shows us the model of the ego states. This situation fits perfectly here. In short, this model means that you can have 5 ego states within yourself, or 5 different way of interacting with other people: The Free and Adapted Child, the Critical and Nurturing Parent and the Adult. If you want to know more about this, this blog could be interesting to you: ‘How do you find the Pipi Longstockings in yourself?‘ In this blog, the theory of the Ego states is explained in more detail.

Back to Sandra and her employees. Sandra clearly worked from her Critical Parent. Through her behaviour, she invited her employees to react from their Adapted Child.

Now Sandra is aware of her behaviour and the impact that this has on her employees, she can learn to communicate in a different way. She can explain from her Adult that this product is very important to her, and that that is why she is afraid that it should fail. From that position, Sandra has less problems asking her employees for their co-operation, instead of shouting.

By communicating with her employees in a respectful manner, she gets the best out of them, and they can let their creativity and good ideas flow again. The situation has been solved completely. It almost seems like magic!

Do you too want to experience TA’s “magic”?

Check out my International Female Leadership program here


You are welcome to join!

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Linda Hoeben
+32 474 920 877
Rommersom 1A, 3320 Hoegaarden