Shame is defined as the emotional experience in reaction to a threatened social bond, claimed identity, and social status (face), and thus both the relationship (status) and identity are negotiated and granted through communication. The way the interactants discursively negotiate and define relationship and identity can be analyzed. In cases of threatened face, messages that put the other person one down and when identity claims are denied, shame is likely to occur.

In order to analyze the material, the episode was recorded from TV, transcribed and scrutinized multiple times, both on the textual level of discourse and the visual-auditive level of the program itself. The analysis was done in a sequence analytical way to reconstruct how the social reality of the case was constructed in discourse (Froschauer & Lueger, 2003; Przyborski & Wohrab-Sahr, 2010). The analysis focused on how the interactants defined the situation they are in, their identity, the identity of their counterpart, and their relationship. Each of these definitions were also categorized in terms of leader and follower position, relative status, and claiming, granting and denying a certain face and identity. As noted above, both face and identity share attributes, and are thus analytically hard to discern. For the purpose of this analysis, both terms are mentioned in general. Analytically, face is rather stressed when (relative) social value is claimed or denied, while identity is rather stressed when the (social or role) identity is claimed or denied.

As relationships include specific actors and groups, special attention was paid to how the main actors define and negotiate their relationships. The main interactants and their relationship are:

  • • Richard (owner-manager) and Geoff (manager)
  • • Workers (Staff)
  • • Relationship between management and staff

The consultant framed the case initially as a leadership problem, hence the claimed and granted face and identities and relationships between Richard and the workers are the main focus. Additionally, further information was included to highlight specific contexts and further information:

  • • Spouse and child of Richard
  • • Relationship between Richard and his wife and daughter
  • • Gerry Robinson (consultant)
  • • Relationship between Gerry and Richard

During the analysis, three main situations or patterns emerged that connect shame and face to the negotiation of identity and relationship in the business context. The first is connected to the feedback of the consultant in regard to Richard’s aggressive leadership style and the subsequent triggering of identity work. The second is related to the identity of Richard and how a belief makes shame-prone relationships due to status put-downs more likely. The third is related to Richards authoritarian leadership style, its effect on the relationship to the staff, and a shame-based explanation of the leadership problem initially diagnosed by consultant and management.

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