“Dream on—There is no Salvation!”: Transforming Shame in the South African Workplace Through Personal and Organisational Strategies

  • Claude-Hélène MayerEmail author
  • Louise Tonelli


Shame is a concept widely researched in psychology and it has been contextualised across racial groups, cultures, nationalities and gender. In the sub-Saharan African context, shame has been studied particularly with regard to HIV/AIDS and cultural traditions. However, it seems that most of the studies conducted do not focus on, firstly, the work context or, secondly, shame as a possible health resource, but rather as a construct that is related to negatively perceived concepts, such as guilt, embarrassment or stigma. In the sub-Saharan African context, there is a dearth of studies providing an overview of the research studies conducted on shame in sub-Saharan African contexts. The chapter provides an overview on research of shame in sub-Saharan African contexts. It further on explores shame experiences in South African workplaces and presents personal and organisational strategies to transform shame constructively. The research methodology used was based on an interpretative hermeneutical paradigm and applied qualitative research methods, such as semi-structured interviews with individuals from various higher education institutions (HEI) and observations at one HEI in particular. The chapter presents new insights and findings on which experiences in the workplaces lead to shame and how employees manage these experiences to overcome negative impacts of shame on individual and organisational levels. Recommendations for future theory and practice are provided.


Qualitative research Shame Workplace Culture Case study Higher education South Africa AIDS/HIV and shame 



We thank the participants for contributing insightful information to this research project.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für therapeutische Kommunikation und SprachgebrauchEuropean University ViadrinaFrankfurtGermany
  2. 2.Department of ManagementRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of Industrial and Organisational PsychologyUniversity of South Africa (UNISA)PretoriaSouth Africa

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