Report on the Analysis of Ineffective Communication in the Workplace

1 January 2017

This report will analyse and examine issues of interpersonal behaviour in the workplace. It will describe a scenario observed concerning communication and will include an analysis of the problems that occurred. A conclusion will be made which will lead to recommendations to prevent this situation from recurring. 2. 0 The scenario The main conflict in this scenario transpired between persons B and C (see appendix 1) on the shop floor of B & Q. Person B had previously spoken rudely about person C to person D.

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Persons D and C are good friends, therefore person D informed C about the incident. Person C then discussed the issue with Person A who had a one-to-one meeting with person B. The outcome of the meeting was that Person B should have an informal meeting with person C to resolve the issue. However, person B avoided holding this meeting and instead chose to speak to person C on the shop floor in the presence of customers. (See appendix 2 for the transcript of the scenario). 3. 0 Transactional Analysis and Effective Communication

Transactional Analysis assists when evaluating this situation as the model is a popular way of explaining the dynamics of interpersonal communication. It was developed by Eric Berne in 1949 and has two fundamental assumptions; all the events and feelings people experience are stored within them and can be replayed, and that personality is made up of three ego states that manifest themselves in gesture, tone of voice and actions. The child ego state is described as the ‘feelings state’ and involves people behaving as they did when they were a child.

This includes three sub-states which are the ‘free or natural child’, the ‘little professor’ and the ‘rebellious child’. The free or natural child state focuses on genuine feelings, acting on impulse and letting others know how we feel. The little professor state is creative, questioning and experimental. As the name suggests, the rebellious child state invokes rebellion, frustration and withdrawal. The adult ego state involves behaviour that concerns thought processes and can be defined as ‘the thoughtful’ state. This state focuses on data collection, reality testing and objectiveness.

The parent state is described as the ‘taught’ state and consists of two sub-states; the nurturing and the critical parent. In this state, people take responsibility and tend to behave in ways learnt from parental figures. The nurturing parent state involves caring for other people, whereas in the critical or controlling parent state people have a tendency to lay down rules and boundaries and insist on their own method of getting the job done. Exclusions of ego states occur when someone is permanently using one ego state and cuts off the others (see appendix 7).

There are three types of transactions in communication; complementary, crossed and ulterior (see appendix 3). When both parties’ ego states match, this is a complementary transaction and communication can continue. Crossed transactions occur when one party addresses a different ego state to the one the other party is currently in. The communication in crossed transactions disintegrates and can result in bad feelings. Ulterior transactions involve a crossed transaction on a psychological level, however on the surface the ego states seem to match leading to people playing games with one another.

Strokes are units of recognition and are given and received via the five senses. Positive strokes are life and growth encouraging, whereas negative strokes are the opposite and cause the recipient to feel dejected. Transactional analysis assumes that our characteristic ways of feeling and behaving derive from the way we feel about ourselves in relation to other people. These are referred to as the four life positions and consist of “I’m not OK, You’re OK”, “I’m not OK, You’re not OK”, “I’m OK, You’re not OK” and “I’m OK, You’re OK” (see appendix 4).

Body language is another method used to communicate and can assist when deciphering an underlying message that someone is trying to purvey. According to Pivcevic, “it is commonly agreed that 80 per cent of communication is non-verbal” (Mullins, L. J, 2010, pp 235). Effective communication is achieved by attending, reflecting and following (see appendix 5). This benefits both the listener and the speaker as it aids the listener in thoroughly understanding what the speaker is saying. Attending is non-verbal communication that signifies someone is paying careful attention to the person talking.

Attending includes body posture, gestures, eye contact and an environment free of distractions. Following skills require the listener to offer openers and encouragements. Openers are non-coercive invitations for the speaker to talk and include judgemental, reassuring and advice statements. Opening questions and silence can be used as they encourage and concentrate on the concerns of the speaker rather than the listener. Reflecting skills avoid both speaker and listener problems. Words are perceived differently to people and listeners can often become distracted.

Reflective responses are non-judgmental and help the listener to grasp the feelings of the speaker. Guirdham’s cycle of perception and behaviour can also aid in analysing communication as perceptions can alter the way in which we behave, thus having an effect on communication (see appendix 8). 4. 0 Analysis of the scenario By applying the Transactional analysis model, it is evident that when person B approached C, she was speaking from her critical parent ego state. This state is condescending and admonishing and can cause the addressee to feel discouraged.

When replying, person C speaks from her adult ego state which is objective and rational, presenting a crossed transaction as B was addressing a different ego state to that of which C is currently in (see appendix 3). Person B should have shifted to an adult ego state to ensure that the states matched, amending it to a complementary transaction. However, B replies she has no time denoting that she is speaking from her critical parent ego state and sending out negative strokes. Her abrupt and loud tone insinuates she is defensive and angry.

Her body language also gives an implication of her underlying message as she is walking away from the situation with her arms crossed, suggesting she is uninterested. Person C is rational and relaxed with her body language, making constant eye contact and positioning herself closely to person B, signifying she is listening intently. C’s ego state shifts to a rebellious child state when B’s body language and attitude is perceived as rude, abrupt and unconcerned. This subliminal communication causes an argument to break out and C begins to speak vociferously. The clenching of her fists and words spoken infer this shift in ego state.

A change in behaviour occurs due to C’s perceptions of B’s behaviour (see appendix 8). Person A then interrupts the conversation and speaks from a nurturing parent ego state; this is presumed as he interjects with a question, “are you okay guys? ” He places a hand on person C’s shoulder, signalling a display of power over her. At this point, person B begins to fiddle with her pen, suggesting a transition out of her comfort zone and showing she is uncomfortable in the situation. By this point, person C is very distressed and is deep in a rebellious child ego state.

Her body language conveys feelings of anger and frustration as she is frantically waving her arms. Person B is reluctant to apologise or be sympathetic throughout the incident, indicating her ego state has not changed. This implies that she is currently in an arrogant life position as she feels she is not in the wrong (see appendix 4). She walks away, with her arms crossed expressing hostility and disregard to the situation. Person C reverts back to an adult ego state towards the end of the conversation and realises that she needs to calm down and clear her head. She also displays anxiety as she begins to bite her lip.

Person A has maintained a nurturing parent ego state throughout as he is caring and tries to control and pacify the situation. 5. 0 Conclusion In conclusion, person B has inadequate communication skills. The crossed transaction, exclusion of other ego states and current life position (see appendix 4) of person B combine together to make her appear arrogant and uninterested, leading to conflict between the two parties. Attending, following and reflecting skills (see appendix 5) should have been applied to the conversation on B’s part to ensure effective communication took place.

Person B’s disregard to instructions given to her by A could be due to the age gap between the two. According to Hart (Mullins, L. J, 2010, pp 101), age gaps can lead to conflict in the workplace as there is a dispute between age and experience. 6. 0 Recommendations To avoid this situation recurring, person B should receive training on interpersonal skills (see appendix 6), attending, following and listening (see appendix 5), enabling her to understand her own behaviour, other points of view and improve communication skills.

Person A should hold an informal, one-to-one meeting with B and discuss possible outcomes of the meeting, such as training. Person A should identify whether B is in a constant ‘arrogant or cosmetic’ life position as she could have been having a bad day when the argument broke out. If it is found that her constant life position is ‘I’m OK, you’re not OK’ then an attempt should be made to modify this as it has a negative effect on communication.

Person A should ensure this is carried out in a conscientious manner to prevent another conflicting situation from occurring. Person A should avoid singling out B as this could demotivate her from joining work shop training, so should offer the opportunity to every employee. This informal, fun atmosphere may help to improve person B’s opinions of others and alter her current life position. Another method of altering person B’s life position is to offer counselling but should be suggested at a later date if workshops fail.

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