Interpersonal style orientation of supervisors in engineering organizations in India.

AuthorSinha, Ashish


Behavior is what most organizations are trying to monitor and change in accordance with the organization's culture and demands imposed by the external environment. Behavioral issues are directly linked to personal effectiveness which in turn has a direct bearing on organizational effectiveness. Organizations today are striving for excellence which is the highest level of organizational effectiveness. And undoubtedly people are the driver of excellence/ effectiveness in any organization (Koene, 1986; Lim, 1995). One of the most important or crucial behavioral dimensions is interpersonal style. How does an individual react and interact with others is of fundamental importance since this is what determines interpersonal relationships, leader-follower interactions, peer group interactions and so on, all of which are fundamentally important in the life of any organization. Muriel James and Dorothy Jongeward (1978) had gone to the extent of describing winners in life as individuals who respond authentically to others, which essentially is interpersonal style.

Transactional Analysis

The theory of transactional analysis deals with human transactions, how people interact with each other and henceforth is contingent on an individual's interpersonal style or rather is an explanation of interpersonal styles. In fact, transactional analysis is a useful conceptual framework to describe an individual's interpersonal style (Pareek, 2002). The theory of transactional analysis was popularized by Eric Berne's Games People Play (1961) and later on by Thomas Harris's "I am OK, You are OK". The theory of transactional analysis states that an individual can make an interaction using any of the three ego states--parent, child and adult. An ego state can be defined as "A consistent pattern of feeling and experience directly related to a corresponding consistent pattern of behavior". The parent ego state contains the attitudes and behavior incorporated from external sources, primarily parents. Outwardly, it often is expressed towards others in a prejudicial, critical and nurturing behavior. Inwardly, it is experienced as old parental messages which continue to influence the inner child. The adult ego state is not related to a person's age. It is oriented to current reality and the objective gathering of information. It is organized, adaptable, intelligent, and functions by testing the reality, estimating probabilities and computing dispassionately. The child ego state contains all the impulses that come naturally to an infant. It also contains the recordings of child's early experiences, responses, and the positions taken about self and others. It is expressed as old archaic behavior from childhood (Muriel James & Dorothy Jongeward, 1978)

Muriel James (1975) observed that three ego states had subdivisions which could be described as the critic, the coach, the shadow, the analyst, the pacifier and the inventor. She contended that all these subdivisions had functional/ dysfunctional dimensions. Moreover an understanding from this perspective of personality can help enhance effectiveness of people working in organizations with which organizations are so primarily concerned (Kalra Satish and Gupta Rajen, 1999). Using the same logic Pareek (1988) developed a framework of functional and dysfunctional ego states/ influence styles and also developed an instrument popularly known as SPIRO to assess the functional and dysfunctional influence styles of managers (Pareek, 1988). SPIRO is in effect an inventory which tells about the interpersonal orientation of respondents on which it is applied. Pareek describes these 12 styles as:

  1. Supportive (+NP): In this style, support is provided when needed. Supervisors with this style are supportive coaches. They encourage their subordinates, cheer them up, and provide the necessary conditions for their continuous improvement. They help them to help themselves.

  2. Rescuing (-NP): In this style, support is provided by almost imposing oneself on others. The belief is that the subordinate is not capable of taking care of himself. This style inculcates dependency-proneness.

  3. Normative (+CP): Supervisors with this style are interested in developing proper norms of behavior with their subordinates and helping them to understand how some norms are more important than the others. The supervisor is concerned with setting appropriate norms by involving his subordinates in evolving these norms, and also in deciding how such norms will be followed.

  4. Prescriptive (-CP): People with this style are critical of others' behavior. They impose themselves and want others to do what they think is right or wrong. Supervisors with this style prescribe solutions rather than helping subordinates to work out alternative solutions to the problem.

  5. Problem solving (+A): In this style the concern of the person is to solve the problem by himself and involving others in it. He does not see the problem as being merely confined to the tasks. For him the problem has many dimensions.

  6. Task obsessive (-A): The supervisor with this style is primarily concerned with tasks, and is so obsessed with the work to be done that he overlooks various other things. They are not concerned with feelings and, in fact, fail to recognize them, since they see them as related to the task. They function like computers.

  7. Innovative...

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