‘Open but not blank’: Preliminary fieldwork for exploration of the influence of transactional analysis on internal communication in a case organisation

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paperpeer-review


Internal communication is very important for organisational success, but often undervalued or neglected by leaders. Education in soft skills for managers and employees can help improve internal communication, foster personal and interpersonal abilities and contribute to a healthy organisational climate and culture. Some authors claim that Transactional Analysis (TA) can contribute to organisational improvement. This article explains how the researcher used ‘sensitising concepts’ to inform and orientate early fieldwork activities in a public administration unit in Switzerland. According to Patton (2016), sensitising concepts can be used to lead primary observations in a particular setting. They also provide a starting point for thinking about data and can act as an initial guide to research. In the context of this case study, the researcher sought to enter the field open to discovery but not conceptually blank. Two questions were asked: What sensitising concepts are identifiable in the internal training program booklet and TA courses for 2017? And in what ways do the identified sensitising concepts align with or differ from important mainstream concepts of internal communication? The researcher concentrated on words and meanings in the organisation’s internal training program documents, and found they suggested different ways of organising and relating. A list of six sensitising concepts – optimism, shared responsibility, DIALOGUE, practitioner repertoire of skills, espoused values, personal and professional growth – informed an open framework for the subsequent preparation of questions, interview guides and ways of working across internal communication and TA. The article shows that this loose framework of sensitising concepts has provided a starting point for an exploration of internal communication and TA that promises to enhance understanding of both.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRefereed proceedings of the Australian and New Zealand communication association conference 2017 -Communication Worlds
Subtitle of host publicationAccess, voice, diversity, engagement
EditorsFiona Martin
PublisherAustralian and Newzealand communication Association Inc
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventAustralia and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA) 2017 Annual Conference - University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 04 Jul 201707 Jul 2017
https://anzca.org/conference-event/anzca-conference-2017/ (Conference website )
https://web.archive.org/web/20200311022119/https://www.anzca.net/conferences/past-conferences/2017-conf.html (Conference website)


ConferenceAustralia and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA) 2017 Annual Conference
Abbreviated titleCommunication worlds: Access, voice, diversity, engagement
OtherThe conference invited reflections on the worlds of communication we inhabit, create and reshape – from ancient, modern and future communication worlds through to colonial and postcolonial worlds, activist and start-up worlds, ecologies, ecosystems and environments.

As we can see from our various encounters with the internet and social media across the globe, different types of ‘worlding’ enable and/or inhibit our access to, voice, participation in and engagement with media and communication spheres. With these four concepts in mind, ANZCA 2017 sought to explore who has access to our symbolic worlds and who is excluded from them; what knowledges, skills, resources and strategies enable us to enter these worlds; and what forms of presence these environments support, as well as what absences they suggest. Our second theme explored the concepts of voice and listening – who decides, on what terms and with what consequences, when people are given platforms to speak? How and in what contexts are they heard? Media diversity was a third theme, inviting accounts of how we might reimagine communication worlds, policies, practices and platforms for the more effective expression of cultural diversity. Engagement, our final theme asked colleagues how we might invite and recruit people to communicate in our worlds, and how we might we gauge the depth, breadth or scope of their interests, responses and contributions.
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