Original Research

Exploring the (k)not of relationship between lecturers and management at a historically Black university: The lecturer’s perspective

Michelle S. May, Frans Cilliers, Vasie van Deventer
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 38, No 2 | a998 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v38i2.998 | © 2012 Michelle S. May, Frans Cilliers, Vasie van Deventer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 June 2011 | Published: 22 March 2012

About the author(s)

Michelle S. May, University of South Africa, South Africa
Frans Cilliers, University of South Africa, South Africa
Vasie van Deventer, University of South Africa, South Africa


Orientation: Within the new South African socio-political context this research focussed on lecturers’ at historically Black universities who were confronted with unresolved experiences in their relationship with management. The analysis of these experiences provided an in-depth understanding of systems psychodynamics in tertiary education.

Research purpose: The purpose of the research was to describe the experiences of nine lecturers in a particular historically Black university (HBU), in order to analyse and interpret the conscious and unconscious dynamics operating in their relationship with management.

Motivation for the study: The researchers were interested in the in-depth psychological experiences of lecturers at this HBU as a platform towards understanding present day South African lecturing experiences.

Research design, approach and method: Qualitative, descriptive research was used. Hermeneutic phenomenology, using the systems psychodynamic perspective, allowed for the description and interpretation of the lecturers’ experiences of their relationship with management. In-depth interviews with nine lecturers were thematically analysed which resulted in five themes. Five working hypotheses were formulated and integrated into the research hypothesis.

Main findings: Five themes manifested, namely, the (k)not of performance, mutual disqualification and mistrust, White lecturers and Black management, power struggle and the (k)not of relationship.

Practical/managerial implications: The research highlighted the importance of understanding the psychodynamics operating in the relationship between lecturers and management as a result of certain ineffective socio-technical aspects in the organisation.

Contribution/value-add: The research contributed towards knowledge about inter-group relations between different role players in HBUs and how these dynamics impact on the performance of both lecturers and management.


Systems psychodynamics; (k)not of performance; disqualification; mistrust; power struggle


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