A friend of mine, who is also a teacher in a public school, told me a few days back that he was called by the manager of his school.
“We are not happy with you,” said the manager. “We have decided not to continue your service after March 31.” The next day he was called again. “What have you decided?” asked the manager.
“I’m looking for another job,” said the teacher.
The manager was taken aback. “Don’t you realise the gravity of the situation?” he asked with much annoyance. “You’ll be putting your family in great risk if you leave this institution. Which school will give you as much security as this?”
The teacher was stunned. “But, sir, you told me…”
“Do you ever walk into the office of the principal or mine,” said the manager cutting him short, “to have a friendly chat?”
The teacher understood what was being demanded of him.
As he narrated the incident, I remembered my former manager advising the staff, “If you want to rise in your profession, you have to keep your boss happy.” He had no hesitation to add that he owed his success to his ability to keep his bosses happy.
As I was reading a book on Transactional Analysis today in order to complete an assignment on the topic in connection with a psychology course I’m pursuing, I realised that both the managers mentioned above are not exceptional cases. The vast majority of the people in the world are “eager, willing, and compliant to the demands of others,” (Thomas A. Harris, I’m OK – You’re OK). The author goes on to say, “‘Some of our best people’ are where they are because of these efforts to gain approval.”
Most human beings need approval, recognition, appreciation. According to the theoretical model of Transaction Analysis, every child begins with the ‘life position’ called I’m Not OK – You’re OK. That is because the child is dependent on the adults for most needs. The child is controlled, guided and shaped by the adults. So the child comes to abide by this particular life position. Later on, the life position may change in many cases. But most people continue to live in that belief and hence want constant positive strokes from others.
Even those who live withdrawing themselves from the society may be living by that script: I’m Not OK – You’re OK, so I withdraw. Those who behave negatively are also reinforcing the same script: I’m not OK and I’m proving it to you. But a good majority choose to live by a corollary-script: I Can be OK. This corollary-script is learnt from the approval gained by living according to the conventions set by the society, religion, the elders, etc. People who follow this corollary-script seek friends and associates who have a certain high status in the institution or society. Such people’s approval is a big pat on the back. People who live by this corollary-script are, I repeat after the psychologists, “eager, willing, and compliant to the demands of others.” They usually reach high positions too. What they are actually doing is rewrite the I’m Not OK script with You’re OK and hence I’ll be like you.
Such a life may take one to certain heights in the social or institutional hierarchy. But, the psychologists say that it may not bring self-actualisation. One may not become what one can and what one is supposed to. Hence a certain degree of frustration is likely to set in. The winner doesn’t always take it all.
Transaction Analysis theory goes on to say that those children who have a ‘battered’ childhood usually acquire the script, I’m OK – You’re not OK. This is a ‘life position’ that the child acquires while ‘licking his wounds’ all by himself. I am OK by myself, says the child, it’s you who is dangerous to me. You hurt me. You terrify me. Having survived many brutalities, such a child knows he will survive in the world: he’s tough, he is sustained by hatred.
Such people may become incorrigible criminals. Such people also may surround themselves with ‘yes men.’ The ‘yes men’ stroke the person heavily through praises. But the person also knows that the praises are not genuine. So he despises the ‘yes men.’ He will reject them sooner or later and get new ‘yes men.’
I added the details about the I’m OK – You’re not OK group of people because I’ve seen them too in administration: people who gather ‘yes men’ (and ‘yes women’ too) around them and chuck them at will only to take in new avatars of the same kind.
To conclude this apparently negative post on a positive note, Transaction Analysis says that anyone can change and make him-/herself an emancipated adult by choosing the ‘life position,’ I’m OK – You’re OK. That change is a conscious, verbal decision. It is a choice made consciously by the individual. But, like in all life situations, this is not an easy choice or decision.