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Posted on March 2, 2020
Updated on October 13, 2021

Working With Integrity


“Integrity, in relation to wholeness and morals and ethics, is seen as central to autonomy and a freeing force in people’s lives" (Mellor, 2008).

Mellor’s article outlines that to become autonomous we need to get in touch with the power and freedom that we have by embracing integrity and developing our capacities for awareness, spontaneity, and intimacy. 

There are a range of different TA concepts that enable us to consider integrity and lack of it – game playing; transactions; the use of A1 to con and manipulate others; life positions.

We need to consider our own integrity and good practice. Good practice is based on beliefs, values and opinions, from which ethical behaviour stems. The dictionary definition of ethics is: philosophical study of the moral value of human conduct and of the rules and principles that ought to govern it. (The New Collins Concise English Dictionary).

The ILM have just completed a report on trust and leadership within the UK. They conclude that integrity is the foundation of trust and it grows in importance with seniority. The development of integrity “requires a high degree of self-critical relfection and honesty, the ability to see beyond your immediate circle, to recognise and reject acolytes and yes-men, to understand that how you see yourself is not necessarily how others see you”. (Campbell S. 2009)

In management and organisational literature, ethical behaviour tends to refer to the values an organisation may hold, but not how these translate into action. This may be partly due to the fact that consultants, and those working in organisations, come from a variety of educational and professional backgrounds where these may not have been considered.

For example, if an organisation’s mission statement is “We value people”, how will that organisation find ways of demonstrating this?  What are the implications for that organisation when this is not demonstrated?

The belief system is an important part of TA. There are many people who know the theoretical concepts but do not put the underpinning philosophy into practice, begging the question whether or not this is “real” TA.

Beliefs are often unconscious patterned thinking processes and may, therefore, be hard to identify. Beliefs can be about the meaning of something, the cause, or about identity. The need to make meaning, find causes or maintain our identity, guide our beliefs, whether or not they are “facts” we may act as though they are.  

Our beliefs will effect how we behave, and our beliefs are part of our identity. Changing either our beliefs, or how we view ourselves, will affect our actions. This will include who we work with and how we work with them.

There are some values that are deeply rooted and global and some that are dependent on circumstances. Organisations which have alignment of shared values increase employee commitment, confidence and achievement.

Chapman (2006), writes about the four cornserstones of sustainable success in business as being: Purpose, People, Planet, Probity (or Purity or Principles). All of these need to be aligned for success that is ethical and sustainable.

Codes of Ethics

All TA member organisations have Codes of Ethics and Professional Practice Guidelines to which we must adhere. This offers clients a measure of protection. However, it is also important to develop our own awareness about our own ethical principles.

Awareness of three cornered contracting (English, 1975) is necessary as consultants have contracts with the commissioning agent as well as course participants. It is these relationships which can create ambiguity. The one to one contract within the therapist-client relationship is not the usual experience for an organisational consultant whose relationships are often complex and sometimes confusing, which has implications for boundary setting. It is therefore “...vitally important that the consultant have clear, conscious, and consistent ethical standards” (Garfield, 1993).

In any given situation, those practising TA need to ask themselves ethical questions including:

  • What is the context?
  • What is my contract here?
  • How do I ensure I do not take advantage of any power position I might have here?
  • What is ethical here?
  • Does my gender make a difference to whether this is ethical or not?
  • Does my sexual orientation make any difference to whether this is ethical or not?
  • Does being from the same, or different, nationality make a difference to whether my actions are ethical or not ethical in this situation.
  • Does it make a difference that I am external/internal to the organisation?
  • Does the status of the person/people with whom I am involved in this situation make a difference?
  • How might I rationalise my behaviour to continue unethical behaviour?
  • What assumptions about the situation might I be making which prevent good practice?
  • Am I focusing on the health and positive strengths of individuals and the organisation?
  • Am I respecting the person’s position in the organisation?

Garfield (1993) outlines some ethical principles related to personal attitudes and behaviours, namely:

  • Be Healthy, Rested and Sober.
  • Be Fully Prepared and Fully Present.
  • Be Professionally Competent to Do this Particular Training.
  • Use Your Knowledge and Skills 100%
  • Have a Clear, Precise, Conscious Knowledge of Your Own Goals, Agenda and Expectations of This Particular Training Group.
  • Do Not Use the Group to Work Out Your Own Issues or Problems.
  • Do Not Promote Your Political, Religious, or Social Ideas or Philosophies.
  • Continually Develop Your Professional Knowledge and Skills.
  • Know, Believe and Communicate the Following:
    • Learning is the responsibility and right of each person.
    • Each person is in charge of his or her own learning
    • Change/personal growth is a possibility/opportunity.
    • Invite people to learn, grow, and possibly change.
  • RULE:  Do not demand learning, growth, change.  (It won’t work anyway.)
  • Be in Charge of Yourself.  Be OK With Self and Others.

Social Psychology and the 6th Driver

TA is a social psychology and as such is well placed to explore interactions in the workplace. Tudor (2008) outlines the case for a 6th driver i.e. “Take it” and looks at how this works at the individual as well as the national and international levels. 

The “Take It” driver can be positive as it is a healthy part of the child’s developmental processes and interactions with the world. However, it can also have a negative, bullying side that is about the acquisition and succeeding without enjoying, or alternatively about over-adaptation to another, i.e. taking to please someone else. Tudor outlines the US government’s “Take It” processes under Bush, in terms of taking other countries resources, their refusal to cooperate with international treaties e.g. the Kyoto agreement etc.

If we are interested in TA and in operating in OK/OK ways we need to consider if we have this driver and, if so, what the healthy and unhealthy aspects might be.

Contracting for Effective Outcomes

Effective contracting also promotes integrity for all parties involved.  Detailed agreements and contracts, without assumptions, mitigate against game playing and promotes straight transactions. James and Jongeward’s definition is “an Adult commitment to one’s self and/or to someone else to make a change.” (1985, p242).

Contracts specify:

  • Who is involved
  • What they are going to do
  • How long it will take
  • What the goal is
  • How they will know they have completed the process or task
  • How this will be beneficial to those concerned 

Steiner outlined four requirements for contract making:

  1. Mutual consent
  2. Valid consideration
  3. Competency
  4. Lawful Object 

Organisational contracts need to be clearly stated and be measurable, manageable and motivational. The difficulty is that one person’s motivation may be another’s demotivation. Therefore, clarity about who is the commissioning agent, who negotiates the day to day contracting process, and who is the client are all parts of the complexity when working with groups and organisations.

At the basic level there are three types of contract:

Administrative: deals with all the practical arrangements such as time, place, duration, fees, agreements between departments and agencies, confidentiality and its limits. It includes aspects of policy and legal administration, as well as monitoring and evaluation.

Professionaldeals with the focus and how the consultation/work being undertaken, will proceed. This is about competency and responsibility, goals and purpose as well as benefits and limitations.

When clients are not clear what they want then a preparatory contract to explore this will need to come first. The professional contract includes dealing with goals and tasks.

Berne defined contracts as “hard” or “soft”. In a hard contract, the goals are clearly defined in behavioural terms. For example, “I will find myself a new job within six months”. 

Soft contracts are more subjective: “We want to become the best company making widgets”. This does not state in which way they will be the “best”. Soft contracts can be useful at the early stage of the relationship between perhaps the coach and coachee. The area of relationship cannot be forgotten whether working one to one or with the organisation.

Psychological:  deals with the unspoken aspects of the contract. This is the unwritten set of expectations and obligations that are held between all employees of the organisation. In these terms “obligations” are stronger than “expectations” and if broken have deeper, more emotional reactions. Broken expectations can lead to disappointment, whilst broken obligations lead to anger and resentment. The psychological contract is more about process, and has a powerful influence on behaviour in organisations. This is the same as the psychological level of communication, where the outcomes of the transactions are determined at the psychological level. When it appears as though the social level of communication is determining the outcome is may be because the social level is congruent with the psychological level. (Lankton, Lankton & Brown 1981)

Levels of Contract:

Tudor (1997) develops English’s (1975) work on the multi-handed contract. As the number of parties to the contract increases it becomes increasingly difficult to hold the complexity of the interrelationships. For example, a team leader might have a manager, a coach, a project group, be involved in training programmes and therefore have a relationship with a Consultant trainer and so on.  These contracts are further complicated when the organisation is a local authority or a voluntary organisation. In this case there might also be relationships with Councillors, steering groups etc.

Tudor likens this complexity to the computing language of hypertext.  He diagrams the layers as hypertext boxes and places these boxes at different distances to represent the different levels or relationship between contractual parties.

Three Handed Relationships in GP Practice (Tudor (1997)

Multihanded Relationships in GP Practice (Tudor (1997)

Psychological Distance

Nelly Micholt highlights the need to be aware of the varying levels of closeness and distance between the different contractual parties. She builds on English’s work on the three-handed contract and diagrammatically outlines the different relationships between the parties to the contract. Micholt’s work is seminal in the organisational field as it ensures clarity of role and relationship enabling the development of awareness required before, during and after setting up the contract. This awareness leads to the greater engagement of the Accounting mode and therefore fewer games.

Psychological Contract

There can be a healthy psychological contract that is based on mutual respect and trust. This level of the contract is based on interactions rather than on clear goals. 

Stewart notes “If the covert goals of the psychological contract are different from those of the overt administrative or professional contracts, then the result will always be that the parties to the contract enter into a game”. (1992 p.87)

There are different reactions to the administrative and professional and psychological aspects to the contract. The breaking of the psychological contract can lead to a more heightened emotional response than if the other two aspects of the contract are broken.

Complexity & Problem Definition

When contracting with organisations we need to consider who the client is, if there is a problem, what that problem is, who defines it, what are the desired outcomes and what the interventions will be to achieve these? Each part of the structure is likely to have a different perspective on what the problem actually is. For example, top management may see the problem as too much decentralisation as it is difficult to co-ordinate, whilst middle managers may experience the problem as too little decentralisation. Therefore, working out what the focus will be, and ensuring that the contract is outcome focused is part of the complexity of working in organisations.

Contracting processes are influenced by our script issues. Identifying how our particular script may affect our contracting process can help us identify the strengths and weaknesses in those contracts and therefore improve them. By so doing we are increasingly likely to have integrity.

One of the greatest difficulties for those working as consultants in organisations is the tension between being an outsider working within a system and the need for a secure base. Poelje, (1994), discusses the consultant’s need for affiliation and autonomy as well as the need for distance and objectivity. The development of a secure base within oneself enables the ability to manage this process with integrity.

As a final word on contracting it is worth considering how different cultures respond to the contracting process. When we are in Russia we are often told that there is no point in contracting as Russian people do not keep to the contract. Frequently, people we work with in Russia do not keep their contracts, as if, somehow, the Russian culture exempts them. It is therefore worth considering how culture affects the psychological contract. This is particularly important when working with different cultures to our own. 

We also need to remember that we have all experienced a psychological contract in our family of origin and that is often over-looked when working with those within our own culture. There is a danger that we might make assumptions about our own culture that we may not make when working with those from another culture.


Berne E. (1961), Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy, New York.

Berne E. (1966), Principles of Group Treatment, Grove Press.

Dilts R., Hallbom T, & Smith S. (1990) Beliefs.Pathways to Health and Well-being. Metamorphous Press.

Campbell S, (2009), Index of Leadership Trust, Special Report, The Edge Journal, ILM.

English F.  (1975),Three-Cornered Contract, TAJ 5:4.

Garfield V. (1993) Ethical Principles for Work in Organisations, TAJ 23:2.

James M. & Jongeward D (1985), Born to Win, Addison Wesley.

Lankton S.R., Lankton C.H., & Brown M., (1981), Psychological Level Communication in Transactional Analysis, TAJ 11:4.

Makin P., Cooper C., Cox C. (1996), Organisations and the Psychological Contract, BPS Books.

Micholt N. (1992), Psychological Distance and Group Interventions, TAJ 22:4.

Poelje S. van (1994), Contracting for Organisational Change, in Transactional Analysis in Organizations: First Vol of selected articles 1974 – 1994, eds. Poelje and Steinert, ITAA.

Sills C (1997), Contracts in Counselling, Sage Publications.

Steiner C., (1974), Scripts People Live, Bantam Books.

Stewart I (1992), Eric Berne, Sage.

Tudor K. (1997), in Contracts in Counselling, ed. Sills C, Sage.

Tudor K (2008), “Take It” A Sixth Driver, TAJ 38:1