• Provocation or factual statement - Understanding the psychology of individuals in a project environment

Provocation or factual statement - Understanding the psychology of individuals in a project environment

21. 02. 18 John Chapman

"There is a lot of washing-up in the sink" - provocation or factual statement?

You arrive home from a busy day at work. Upon walking into the kitchen you see a lot of washing-up in the sink. There are dishes from last night’s dinner, this morning’s breakfast, lunchtime plates and numerous coffee cups.

Without a second thought you make the comment, ‘There is a lot of washing up in the sink’. This can elicit three responses from your partner or housemate.

  • The Parent response: Yes I have been very busy today, can you help me with it
  • The Adult response: I know, the prioritisation of the other tasks at home and at work meant this had to wait
  • The Child response: What do you mean there is a lot of washing-up in the sink? Do you not realise how busy I have been? Up early this morning, on my feet all day trying to keep everything under control, and on arriving home the best you can do is criticise the state of the house.

Eric Berne identified these three ego states as Parent, Adult and Child in his work on Transactional Analysis.

In Project work, understanding the psychology of individuals is important. What we say can be interpreted in different ways. Consider the question ‘Have you finished reviewing the design document?’ Replies could vary:

  • The Parent response: Not yet, business as usual priorities have taken precedence. I will complete the review in the next few days.
  • The Adult response: Can you help me with some business as usual work, so I can free up time to complete the review of the document.
  • The Child response: Don’t you realise how hard I work. My manager expects so much of me. Customers are demanding more and more. I arrive early, leave late, my family do not see me, and all you are interested in is your design document.

Now we can respond in different ways.

  • The Parent response: I understand that you are busy. Thank you for letting me know when it will be completed
  • The Adult response: I will arrange additional resources to back fill your role, so giving you more time to do the project work
  • The Child response: You think you work hard, look at the hours I put in and I don’t complain. Just get the documentation reviewed and shut up complaining.

Communication is a two-way process. There is the sender and the receiver. What was said might not be heard or understood in the way that it is meant. Especially in a professional environment, a pause to contemplate the motive behind the question and a little understanding of psychology could help us frame an appropriate response. In this way we maintain the relationship and hopefully avoid a potentially inflammatory situation.

More about Touchstone FMS Our project services Contact Us
  • Share on:
John Chapman

Written by:

John Chapman

Programme Director