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

Working With People

Decision making is affected by our past experience, our value system as well as how integrated we are in terms of our ego states. 

Where there is intra-psychic conflict people will have greater difficulty making decisions. Using the structural model, the Parent may be saying: Work before play! The Child may be saying I wanted to take Friday off and have a long weekend. 

The level of contamination of the Adult ego state will depend upon how easy it is for the person to make a decision based on here and now realities, weighing up all the pros and cons etc.

Stuntz’s multiple chair technique can be helpful to break through the intra-psychic process. If used in an organisational context, this would need to be undertaken to ensure here and now awareness, rather than through cathecting Parent and Child modes.

Different Personalities

Different personality types will make decisions in different ways and for different reasons. For example, some will go for a quiet life from Child, others will make decisions based on a zealous interest in a range of different areas (Please Others and Try Hard respectively).

Our past experience will also influence our decision making. If we have had good results from taking a certain type of action, then we are likely to make similar decisions to that time and therefore undertake similar actions.  

Similarly, if we have had bad results from making a certain type of decision we will act accordingly. This is likely to be the case even if we have changed jobs and are in a new organisation. Should the new organisation respond differently to the decision we make we will accommodate this new response and change our decision-making accordingly.

Our life position also affects our decision-making. If we believe we are not okay and others are okay, then decision-making is likely to be based on making others more important than ourselves. 

Organisations also have life positions. Krausz diagrammed the organisational OK Corral: 

OK Corral Table

Where power is used well by management there is flexibility and conflict will be used in constructive ways. Decisions will be made on information and alternatives for action. Co-operative and integrative processes will be established using both the positive and negative feedback as information from which to learn. Problem-solving, rather than blame, will be the focus.

Where power is used inflexibly, conflict is repressed, and blame, rather than problem-solving will be the culture. When this occurs there are likely to be competitiveness and difficulties with communication. Motivation is likely to be medium to low and individual competence is seldom recognised or respected. 

Krausz highlights positions for both the consumer and the organisation. For example, it may be that the organisation sees the consumers, or others external to itself, as not OK, and this may be mirrored internally in their systems and processes. On the other hand, they may experience themselves as not OK and consumers etc. as OK.  Internal to the organisation they may experience themselves as OK with others in the organisation as OK. All of these aspects will affect decision-making processes as well as the nature of the interventions to be made.

Healthy Organisations

Where organisations are healthy there is open communication, employees are encouraged to make decisions appropriate for their context, and there is a free flow of information. Employees recognise that there are consequences to their behaviour and are considerate and balanced in their actions.

Where people are left unclear about processes, or where their attempts to learn, cooperate and achieve are thwarted then they will become demotivated. In these settings, employees are likely to over-adapt and become compliant or resistant. In Peck’s terms, they are likely to become conflict-avoiding, rather than conflict resolving. This absence of confrontation can be misunderstood as meaning that there not any difficulties, whereas, in fact, it is more about intransigence. Too little or too much control can cause an organisation to become ineffective.

These situations often develop as a company grows. Managers may make decisions with limited knowledge, or perhaps the decisions they make are overturned by others because they have difficulty letting go of control. Resentment will then ensue. 

Holdeman outlined issues of symbiosis within organisations naming this phenomenon The Symbiotic Chain. The Schiffs (1971) originally presented the concept of symbiosis within TA. A natural symbiosis occurs where a parent looks after a child in order to ensure their survival. In these circumstances, the parent would have their Adult as well as their Parent ego state functioning. In unhealthy symbiosis, the parent can remain dependent upon the child for strokes and the offspring has difficulty in functioning independently and inter-dependently.  

In organisations, the symbiosis can involve a whole range of people.  The most important person in the chain is the pillar to whom the chain is attached for support. 

In these situations, each person has a deprived stroke-deficient Child ego state. This will mean that problem solving is stymied and often prescriptive. Responsibility is passed up the line as the subordinate was “only following orders”.


Holdeman Q (1989), The Symbiotic Chain, TAJ 19:3

James M (1991), The Better Boss in Multicultural Organizations, Marshall

Krausz R (1980), TA and Management Effectiveness, TAJ 10:1

Neilson GL et al (2005), The Passive-Aggressive Organization, The Harvard Business Review, October.

Peck S (1987), The Different Drum, Simon & Schuster

Schiff AW & JL (1971), Passivity, TAJ 1:1

Stuntz E.C. (1973), Multiple Chairs Technique, TAJ, III:2