Psychology games an employee plays

Eric Berne, a Canadian psychiatrist is well-known for two books- Transactional Analysis and Games People Play. People interact with each other based on 3 ego states- Parent, Child and Adult. Berne explained how individuals interact with one another, and how the ego states affect their interactions.


Psychology games of Berne are different from Game Theory of Economics. Basic assumption in Game Theory is each player is intelligent and logical (Adult state) and always selects optimal strategy.

In psychology games, interactions are usually not in adult ego state; in fact game playing can come to a formal end if participants interact in adult ego state. Most of the time players play game not rationally, but with ulterior motives.

ego states

Ones I like most are “Wooden Leg” and “Now I’ve got you, you SOB”.

In “Wooden Leg” a person uses his disability or mind-set as wooden leg, an excuse for not making an effort. Logic used is -what can you expect of man with a wooden leg? This game can be played by employee to hide his incompetence. Sales Head can use excuses like lack of sales force, recession, market conditions “wooden leg” to explain inability to meet targets. In IT organisations lack of resource (blaming HR for inability to recruit) is “wooden leg” for anything that goes wrong in projects.

wooden leg

Another game is “Now I’ve got you, you SOB”. This game is played by person with someone who is at his mercy. He uses trivial issue to vent his anger on other person and blames him for it. This game is usually played by bad boss, who is always looking for opportunity to vent anger against subordinate whom he dislikes. Some small mistake is good enough for boss to exploit the situation i.e. use that small mistake as an opportunity to fire subordinate and justify anger that has built up over long time period.



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