Communication between individuals in social systems includes not only interpersonal, external acts of discourse, but also intrapersonal communications within each person's interior cognitive space. One type of intrapersonal communication, imagined interactions, involves mentally imagining communication encounters with others in an internal dialogue symbolic of real-life conversations. This research project explored the phenomenon of imagined interactions with real-life coworkers as a component of the interior work lives of working adults. The research question was: How do supervisors utilize imagined interactions to make sense of and manage workplace relationships? An existing survey instrument, the Survey of Imagined Interactions, was modified to limit responses to imagined interactions in work-related scenarios and with real-life coworkers. A total of 88 participants completed the questionnaire. All respondents reported engaging in work-related imagined interactions with their real-life coworkers. A mixed methods data analysis resulted in findings related to the frequency, variation, topics, conversational partners, and emotional valence of work-related imagined interactions. The findings provide insight into how working adults engage imagined interactions for self-understanding, relationship maintenance, emotional catharsis, conversational rehearsal, job preparation, and navigating difficult relationships, especially with their boss. The analysis also resulted in a finding about methodological approaches which suggests that qualitative data provides greater insight into work-related imagined interactions than quantitative data. Taken as a whole, these findings provide an important baseline for understanding the emotional and relational dynamics that trigger imagined interactions in real-life work scenarios. This exploratory research study makes an interdisciplinary connection between the communication sciences and the organizational sciences, and introduces the construct of imagined interactions into the organizational, leadership, and common vernacular. The results lay the groundwork for continued scholarship on how the ubiquitous phenomenon of imagined interactions contributes to workplace relationship maintenance and overall job performance.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organization change; Self-talk; Interpersonal relations; Communication -- Psychological aspects; Communication in organizations

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Nero, Susan;