We love our parents. Many of us are parents ourselves. But do you act like a parent at work?

Portrait of cute girl drawing with colorful pencils with her mother near by

The Parent is one of three ego states that you operate from during your transactions with other people, and in your inner dialogue with yourself.  The other two ego states are Adult and Child, filling out three life positions that are part of human experience. One of these ego states might be predominant in your habits of interacting with other people, and the more predominant one is, the more consistently you use it, regardless of whether it’s the most appropriate for the current situation.

Where does The Parent come from?

The Parent is the version of life that you were taught. It is formed by the habits of thought ingrained in you from the time you were old enough to absorb what your parents and other primary caregivers were telling you. Conditioned values and beliefs are the foundation of Parent ego state. If you’re wondering how soon Parent ego state kicks in, just listen to a preschooler as he or she recites rules and talks about so and so being “bad”.

Nurturing Parent

Your Mom and Dad cared for you when  you couldn’t care for yourself. Likewise, your nurturing parent ego state can tend to come out when someone around you is having difficulty. The nurturing parent tries to make it all better. Even though the nurturing parent ego state sounds like a good place to be, in the workplace that habit of parental intervention and protection can interfere with learning and accountability. You might prevent some mistakes, but you might also telegraph that you don’t trust your staff to do it themselves.

Critical Parent

The Critical Parent is the keeper of the standards, of the “shoulds”. This ego state evaluates the goodness or badness of other people’s behavior, the quality of the service they are receiving at the store, and the prettiness or ugliness of the office decor. And others will hear about it, because this ego state often shares its assessments with others. Critical Parent has a hard time NOT judging, and often believes that he or she holds the true standards by which the rest of the world should be measured. Needless to say, judging and critical behavior can build walls between individuals and departments. It can create such confidence gaps that employees won’t step out and try something new. And Parent behavior doesn’t stand alone – it tends to elicit Child behavior from the individuals involved on the other end of the transactions.

The bulk of the individuals that Summit coaches individually or in teams find that their Parent ego state rules more than they want it to. The good news is that every interpersonal transaction is a new opportunity for them to choose another mode from which to relate to subordinates, peers, and their bosses in the workplace.