I have been thinking about this for some time, and I wonder if we ever stop and think about who we are personally and professionally.

I am looking at it closer than ever, because I am in the process of writing my written exam for my CTA (Certified Transactional Analyst). This is a piece of work which is about me, my practice and how I use transactional analysis (TA) in my work.

The workshop I attending a few weeks ago was timely and has shown me new things about our relationship with ourselves and organisations.

What is identity?

The one thing that makes you unique, a core aspect of yourself. It is inevitable that we change as people and different things come to the fore, but at the core we have a sense of self. At times this is reflected back to us from family, friends and the groups we work in.

What is group identity or organisational identity?

The organisational identity can be described as how much we can belong, and in the webinar I attended this was described very similarly to the organisational culture.

  • What the organisation does
  • How the organisation does what it does
  • What it believes in

The 80% / 20% rule of identity in Organisations

What I found interesting from Erika was that there was 80% synchronicity in how people felt about the organisation and agreed with responses from the questions (asked indirectly). 20% saw and experienced the organisation differently.

She described this as creative tension, the difference and diversity was key to success of the organisations she was looking at. They looked at and leaned into the creative tension, using it as a competitive advantage, and found that organisations who did this were most successful.

For organisations to do this, there needs to be a healthy respect and engagement with the 20%, as they can be easily ignored. In my experience, I have often been and am in the 20%, as I easily pick up on the difference what is espoused by the organisation and what really happens. Congruence is an important value to me, and potentially one of the reasons I struggle in organisations (that’s a whole different article).

Bringing it back to personal identity, I wonder if we also have an 80% 20% split, we talk about the inner critic, and rely on those around us to share how they experience us which may be different to our intentions in that moment in time. I have experienced being in conflict with myself and I am sure many of you have, and perhaps we are often dealing with our own impasses and paradoxes, in parallel with organisations.


Who the hell are we and what if we think about roles?

I can tell you who I am on any given day:

  • Wife
  • Mother
  • Colleague
  • Employee
  • Consumer
  • Friend
  • Stranger
  • Daughter
  • Sister
  • Freelancer

I find this fascinating and it is easier to think about the roles rather than the complex notion of identity. Here I want to share how important roles make in our lives to make sense of our world, to create appropriate and healthy boundaries.

Van Poelje et al looks at the different structures within a person

  • Core – your centre
  • Personality – extroversion/introversion, openness, contentiousness, agreeableness and neuroticism
  • Identity – what are you in the world – female/male, professional (manual/non-manual), gender, ethnicity, race, languages, culture etc
  • Roles – like the ones I listed broke down into major roles like mother, wife and secondary roles like consumer, writer etc

Here we can choose who we are based on which facets of the diamonds we choose to share, and which we keep hidden or private. That we have capacity to drop and take on new roles, the concept of identity makes it seem complex and for me maybe too rigid. With the role diamond we can play with roles and try different one’s on and see if they fit, or serve a specific purpose. Here we might discover some of our hidden self.

So what?

I wasn’t expecting a ‘so what’ and it’s stopped me in my tracks as I lose focus, I don’t know what the ‘so what’ is. What I do know, is about our own conflict, impasses and paradoxes might reflect the one’s in organisations and may chose to ignore them or may not even notice them (how can we if we cannot notice our own?). Maybe this will be the next piece I write about, I cannot stop thinking about impasses in organisations and I have been thinking about them for the last 6 months, so the mystery continues.

Thanks go to Erika Jacobi PhD, for sharing her insights in a workshop I attended.


Van Poelje et al, Keeping the TA-O torch alight


Nims is an Organisational Design and Development consultant at the MOD, she also freelances and supports SMEs. She is an executive coach and a trainee transactional analyst in the field of organisations.