Chris Welford: Emotionally literate organisations – a radical manifesto

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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!

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About Chris Welford

Chris leads Serco Consulting’s Organisational Psychology and Change service line and is a Chartered member of the CIPD, a member of the British Psychological Society (BPS) and the European Coaching and Mentoring Council (EMCC) and an experienced management consultant and coach.

He holds a BSc. (Hons) in Psychology, an MA in Law and Employment Relations (Dist.), post graduate qualifications in Business and Executive Coaching and has over 20 years of HRM experience.

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