Original Research

Impression management within the Zulu culture: Exploring tactics in the work context

Debrah Mtshelwane, Jan Alewyn Nel, Lizelle Brink
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 42, No 1 | a1325 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v42i1.1325 | © 2016 Debrah Mtshelwane, Jan Alewyn Nel, Lizelle Brink | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 November 2015 | Published: 11 August 2016

About the author(s)

Debrah Mtshelwane, WorkWell Research Unit, North-West University, South Africa
Jan Alewyn Nel, Department of Human Resource Management, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Lizelle Brink, WorkWell Research Unit, North-West University, South Africa

Share this article

Bookmark and Share


Orientation: Impression management tactics are utilised differently by people depending on the situation and the others around them.

Research purpose: The purpose of the study was to identify the impression management tactics Zulu people display when they want to impress people in a work context.

Motivation for this study: Organisations are competing for talented employees and people who contribute to the return on investment for the organisation. Individuals display impression tactics to influence the perceptions of others in the workplace, especially pertaining to performance appraisals and promotional opportunities.

Research approach, design and method: The social constructivism paradigm was employed in conducting this study, following a phenomenological approach. The research sample consisted of 30 Zulu-speaking individuals from various organisations who were interviewed through semi-structured interviews. The researcher used thematic analysis to analyse the data.

Main findings: The main findings in this study included impression management tactics that are used by Zulu people when attempting to impress people in the work context. The findings were divided into different categories (colleagues and supervisor). Conscientiousness,interpersonal amiability, openness and relational action are the themes that were reported as the most common impression management features people display at their workplace with colleagues. Themes that were reported when impressing a supervisor include conscientiousness,integrity, relational action and skilfulness.

Practical/managerial implications: This study provides organisations with knowledge on the impression management tactics utilised by isiZulu employees. The nature of this information enables management to not misinterpret the use of certain tactics and will lead to more understanding and resilience by organisations and colleagues when working with isiZulu individuals.

Contribution/value-add: This study contributes to the body of knowledge concerning impression management tactics within the South African context. The findings of this study might assist management to invent tools that are effective to identify impression management tactics, not just in the Zulu culture but within numerous other cultures in the South African spectrum.


Impression Management; Social Constructivism Paradigm; Social Identity Theory; Work Context; Zulu Culture


Total abstract views: 3371
Total article views: 5522


Crossref Citations

1. A diary study of the impression management strategies utilised by industrial and organisational psychology interns
Nasreen A. McGowan, Lusanda Sekaja
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology  vol: 48  year: 2022  
doi: 10.4102/sajip.v48i0.1902