Trans-acting in the Workplace
Skills That Enhance Workplace Interaction
©Dr. Peter R. Maida 2008
Washington, DC 20015
202-285-2510
Not to be copied without express permission of the author.
Trans-acting in the Workplace
Interest
and information about workplace interaction is can be found
in the following:
Team building literature and research
Organizational systems theory
Leadership studies
Exchange theory
Organization development
Human resources literature and research
Conflict studies
Clinical practice and research
Executive coaching and counseling
Workplace systems analysis
Communication studies
Trans-acting
Trans-acting
refers to the interaction taking place between two or more
people.
utilizes specific skills and abilities referred to as the “building
blocks” of interaction, regardless of the context of interaction.
Trans-acting
Every
trans-action results in an outcome whether the focus is the individual
or the individual trans-acting in a specific context, e.g., community,
workplace, family.
These
outcomes are used to judge the effectiveness of the trans-acting.
Trans-acting
can be fluid in that it is in constant evolution or can be static,
i.e., stopped at a particular point in the interaction.
Background Assumptions
People
trans-act with one another based on the skills,
and abilities they value and are able to use in interaction
with others.
These
are the “building blocks” of interpersonal
interaction.
Most
employment relies on employees using certain
well-established skills and abilities to achieve the
mission’s objectives.
Objectives of Assessing Trans-action
discover
the building blocks that enhance transaction; that is, those human behaviors and
attitudes that facilitate positive and constructive
interaction with others.
to
understand the workplace dynamics that lead
to successful and productive interaction,
necessary for any group to accomplish its goals;
that is, for agencies to successfully carry out
their missions.
Select Building Blocks
Select
building blocks believed to be related to positive trans-acting in
the workplace are:
Trust
Collaboration skills
Communication skills
Risk-taking behaviors vs. certitude
Adaptability vs. inflexibility
Emotion vs. rationality
Individuality vs. group
Ego strength
Future vs. past thinking
Background Assumptions
People
vary in the degree to which they can act using these building blocks;
some manifest strengths, others, weaknesses.
Assessing
trans-acting focusing on the building blocks will reveal how well
one is in sync with others regardless of the context. (workplace, family,
community).
Difficult
interactions, lack of communication, conflict, low morale,
dysfunctional behavior, inaction, passive-aggressive behavior, leadership
deficits, job dissatisfaction, express the most commonly used descriptions
when differences between people vary to a significant degree.
“Problem
behaviors” become a pattern of trans-acting that requires
interventions if they are to change so that trans-acting takes on a more
constructive or positive character.
Purpose of the Analysis of Trans-acting

To help employers and employees identify what building blocks
are valued and utilized and how they are related to:
Individual success at the job
Trans-acting with colleagues
Communication between managers and supervisors
Workplace success in helping the organization accomplish its
mission
Employee Typology
Typology
of employees:
 Trans-acting
optimizer
 Aware underperformer
 Pressured employee
 Situationally-limited trans-acting optimizer
 In-sync performer
 Low-level underoptimizer
 Outward-looking employee
 High criticizer
 In-sync underoptimizer
How Employees Can Be Helped
Understanding
Interpreting
Planning
patterns of trans-acting with other employees
work evaluations
how to improve job performance
Working
with supervisors to reach a mutual understanding about
how they communicate with one another
Thinking
about whether to switch to another job or workplace
How Employers Can be Helped
Understanding
Analyzing
the basis of communication with reports
office trans-action dynamics
Rehearsing
for periodic meetings with reports in
preparation for evaluations
Self-understanding
Analyzing
of trans-actional style
trans-actional interaction with supervisors in
addition to reports
Coaching and Counseling
Individual
and group behavioral assessment will aid
efforts to coach and counsel individuals with respect to
what they may choose to do to develop or reinforce the
positive building blocks for trans-action.
Attitude
and behavioral changes resulting from coaching
and counseling, in turn, form the basis for positive and
constructive trans-acting.
The Question to Ask Before Coaching and Counseling
 What
are the strengths and weaknesses of the
individual?
“Qualifying Markers” – What to Look For
 Transacting
Optimizer
and workplace are “in sync”
 High achiever
 High job satisfaction
 Satisfaction with fellow employees
 Helps meet goals of organization
 Recognition of high quality work
 May be looking outside current job for career
advancement
 May be the object of a “raid”
 Individual
“Qualifying Markers” – What to Look For (cont.)
 Aware
Underperformer
 Person
with average skills
 Doesn’t live up to the workplace demands
evaluations reveal concern that potential is
not reached
 At times sub-optimum trans-actions with fellow
employees
 Thinks of leaving for a more promising job
 Periodic
“Qualifying Markers” – What to Look For (cont.)
 Pressured
 High
employee
level of dissatisfaction with job
 Have positive attitude toward workplace
 They don’t seem to be going anywhere in job
 Evaluations are “satisfactory” or below
 Don’t have positive interactions with others
 Resigned to stay in job if they have seniority
 Are identified as “problems” by managers
 Would benefit from further training
“Qualifying Markers” – What to Look For (cont.)
 Situationally-limited
 Optimal
trans-acting optimizer
trans-actional skills
 Believe the workplace is out of sync with them and
look to the workplace to change
 Believe their potential is not fulfilled
 Try to achieve their potential in spite of the workplace
 Try to change the workplace
 Most critical of managers and fellow employees
 A move may not be out of the question
“Qualifying Markers” – What to Look For (cont.)
 In-sync
 Staff
performer
and workplace are in sync
 Neither staff nor workplace operate at the highest
level of achievement however
 Workplace may reach some goals but success is
lack-luster
 No one excels even though in sync
 Are comfortable in their jobs
 May not be totally satisfied with their achievement
“Qualifying Markers” – What to Look For (cont.)
 Low-level
 Similar
underperformer
to, but differs from, aware underperformer in
that underachieving is greater and the workplace is to
blame
 Trans-acting with peers and supers is unsatisfactory
 Thinks of leaving job but has skill deficits
 Periodic evaluations are the basis for dissatisfaction
and grievances
 Level and support for retraining is limited or lacking
“Qualifying Markers” – What to Look For (cont.)
 Outward-looking
 Most
employee
dissatisfying work situation
 Employees see themselves as highly competent
 Possess the skills for successful trans-acting
 The workplace is viewed as stultifying
 Not committed to work at a high performance level
 They are the most out-ward looking of employees
“Qualifying Markers” – What to Look For (cont.)
 High
criticizer
 Average
level of dissatisfaction with job
 Employer doesn’t set high goals
 Thinks that the work environment is under-performing
 Work environment doesn’t support positive trans-action
and skill development
 Critical of agency’s work output
 Critical of agency’s leadership
 Have plans to leave the organization
“Qualifying Markers” – What to Look For (cont.)
 In-sync underperformer
 Organization is the most dysfunctional
 Employee identifies his or her skills as low level and has a
negative opinion about the work place
 Employee and leadership are resigned to low-level performance
and not aware of skills necessary to increase success
 Not aware of the skills necessary for successful trans-acting nor
how these skills are related to organizational success
 Level of dissatisfaction is high and motivation to leave job,
including retirement, is low
Interventions
Trust
 Use
of questions that try to uncover lack of trust or find out who can’t be trusted.
 What can be done to encourage trust if it is valued?
 What happens that affects trust in the workplace?
 Strategies:




Traded assurances
Use of focus group and action plan
Discuss “betrayal” hot spots
Baby steps to build trust activities
Interventions (cont.)
 Collaboration
 Finding
common interests
 Put positions aside for a while
 Assessing recognition of the interests of others
 Developing common principles
 Strategies:



Planning future activities
Working together on a detail
Generating joint expectations
Interventions (cont.)
 Communication
 What
type of communicator? (Verbal, auditory, e-mail.)
 How are attempts to communicate received?
 Does the decision-making structure impede communication?
 What about intractable differences?
 Strategies:




Active listening
Opening channels of communication
Periodic meetings to facilitate communication
Coaching and counseling
Interventions (cont.)
 Risk
v. Certitude
 What
types of risks are taken in the workplace?
 Is the workplace a “risky” place to be and why?
 How are risk and certitude balanced?
 How does the workplace respond to mistakes in judgment?
 Strategies:



Practice risk taking and certitude – increase comfort level
Locate fear “hot spots”
Construct list of workplace activities and rank them based on risk
and certitude for the employee
Interventions (cont.)
 Adaptability
v. Inflexibility
How
willing to change is the employee?
When is the employee adaptive and inflexible? (New tasks; old routines?)
What kind of job do you think the employee does at balancing these two
extremes?
Who is the employee adaptable and inflexible with?
Strategies:



Try switching hats: when inflexible try adaptability, etc..
Generate examples pushing adaptability and inflexibility to the extreme –
paradox.
Try realistic approach, i.e. does it make sense?
Interventions (cont.)
 Emotion
v. Rationality
 How
does the employee balance these two?
 Is one relied on more than another when interacting with others in the
workplace?
 How does the employee describe him/herself as far as emotion and rationality?
 How do others characterize the employee on this continuum? (Does the
employee know the answer to this question?)
 Is there any evidence of inappropriate responses?
 Strategies:
Paradox
Searching for appropriate balance using real life examples.
Switch hats to illustrate the inappropriateness of responding to any situation using only one.

Interventions (cont.)
 Autonomy
v. Group
 How
does the individual test taker balance autonomy and group
demands?
 Does the test taker believe that he or she is valued for individual
thinking?
 How do others in the workplace respond to individual thinking?
 How strong is the commitment to “group think”?
 Strategies:



Facilitate a discussion exploring when individual behavior is
appropriate and when the group’s wishes are more important.
Discuss topics in which the employee believes others demand too
much conformity
Explore what the employee believes should occur in an ideal
workplace.
Interventions (cont.)
 Ego Strength
 Do circumstances exist when one is asked to “back down” from a
position?
 Does the employee have a high regard for him/herself?
 Is it important for the employee to prevail in an argument?
 Does the employee believe that others have a positive or
negative opinion about his/her strong ego?
 Strategies:
Probe
as to whether others in the workplace appreciate the strong ego of
the employee.
Discuss when a strong ego is helpful or harmful in the workplace.
Discuss whether the employee ever is unsure of him/herself.
Interventions (cont.)
 Future v. Past
 How does the employee seem balance thinking about the importance
of the past and importance of the future?
 When does the employee rely on the past and when is the future
relied upon?
 Is the workplace, according to the employee, rooted in the past or
forward thinking?
 Strategies:
 Given
a series of tasks or topics, how does an employee balance the
past and the future?
 Discuss people in the workplace and whether they are inclined to base
their actions on the past or future and why.
 Considering the mission of the organization how is the past and future
balanced by those in the workplace?
For more information, contact:
Dr.
Peter R. Maida
[email protected]
mailto:[email protected]
Cell: 202-285-2510
Office: 202-730-0864, 0864
Fax: 202-730-1826
SKYPE: peter.maida89
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Trans-acting in the Workplace