Your 3 egos in a digital workspace

Balancing your parent, child and adult ego

You’ve bought a Billy Bookcase from Ikea. You take your trophy home and insist on putting it together. Your partner tries to help. You shout “Clockwise! CLOCKWISE!” at them until they can’t take it anymore. You throw the screwdriver across the room and say you don’t read enough for a bookshelf anyway.

Our old friend Freud pointed out that our personalities are multi-faceted. Games People Play author Eric Berne discusses the theory of transactional analysis. He suggests we’re a sum of three egos; adult, parent and child. This happens in quick succession after an Ikea trip. The decision (adult), the supervision (parent) and the tantrum (you guessed it).

Your inner child

We are at our most creative as children and this starts to decline as we age. In the initial discovery stage, stay curious and ask questions. Push the boundaries and be okay to fail, learning from your mistakes.

Your inner adult

Be prepared to make some grown-up decisions. Build a minimal viable product instead and iterate, iterate, iterate. Don’t give up on your inner child’s creation. All you need to do is slow down and consider long-term strategy.

Your inner parent

Self-discipline and time management will help you get the most value out of your work. Break up projects into small, manageable chunks and give yourself deadlines.

How might we interact with other team members’ egos?


Adult–adult

According to Dr. Berne, the simplest transactions are between adult egos. You might tell the product owner about some data you found that backs up their decision for the next sprint. Everything’s good. We’re all adults here.

Parent–child and child–parent

Things get a little trickier between parent and child. We’ve all been in the awkward position of disagreeing with a colleague. Your child is saying “you’re not listening to me!” and their parent responds with the disciplinary “come along now, this isn’t the time.” Not in those words exactly, but you understand.

A parent–child interaction can also be one of nurture. Let’s imagine you’re struggling with wireframing and you admit to a fellow designer you need help. Their support is a manifestation of their parental ego.


Listen to your egos. Understand how they come into play in your working environment. Balance them to make the right decisions and build stable working relationships. But be careful to never throw a screwdriver when your inner child takes hold.