A few weeks ago, I attended a workshop with one of the last remaining, living disciples of Eric Berne, the founder of transactional analysis (TA). Claude Steiner is still a powerful and provocative figure who is now in his seventies. Listening to Claude and the responses of the workshop participants, many of whom were half his age, it made me wonder if the appetite for a radical reappraisal of the way in which we relate to each other in organisations is still alive. I concluded that it was.

One of Steiner’s simplest but most profound ideas was the Stroke Economy – the set of rules that we accept, often wrongly, which dictates how we recognise each other in everyday life. Here’s my version of what Steiner had to say:

Organisations create a scarcity of positive feelings by imposing a set of rules that govern the exchange of appreciation. These rules are:

  • Don’t give the appreciation of others that you would like to give
  • Don’t ask for appreciation you would like to get
  • Don’t accept appreciation that you would like to accept
  • Don’t reject appreciation that you don’t want
  • Don’t appreciate yourself

Steiner was and is a radical. Many of his ideas encapsulated the very essence of the 1960s but look at the above. Aren’t these rules still present? Don’t they dictate the way many people feel at work? Can they not be challenged?

Here are Steiner’s recommendations, once again interpreted by me:

  • Give the appreciation you want to give
  • Ask for and accept the appreciation you need
  • Reject the appreciation you don’t want
  • Appreciate yourself

Simple ideas that made me think!