Exploring social desirability within the Zulu culture : an emic perspective
Mtshelwane, Nontsikelelo Deborah Pebetsi
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The changes that occurred in South Africa around 1994 affected the world of work and changed the way in which organisations should function and be operated. These changes were implemented for the sole purpose of trying to eliminate segregation in the country and to create equality among people, especially within the workplace. The implementation of the EEA (Employment Equity Act), BBBEE (broad-based black economic empowerment) act and AA (affirmative action) policy posed more challenges for organisation from the management of homogenous organisations to heterogeneous, diverse organisations. These diverse differences include language and cultural differences, which cause communication problems, misunderstandings and conflicts within the organisation. Managers are responsible for managing organisations effectively and with all these diverse changes in the work environment, organisations need effective guidelines and tools. To gain substantial understanding on cultural differences amongst employees in the organisation one needs to look into the context of social desirability. There have been many studies conducted on social desirability internationally, but no extensive research has been done in South Africa with regard to this phenomenon. Most of the studies that have been conducted focus on social desirability within psychometric testing and not from the social psychology perspective. The purpose of this research project was to explore social desirability within the Zulu culture using an emic perspective and to gain an understanding with regard to socially desirable and undesirable features in the Zulu culture that people will exhibit in a formal or informal setting. The research approach that was followed in this study was qualitative and phenomenological. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 research participants. A combined purposive and quota non-probability sampling method was followed during data collection. A tape recorder was used to capture the data during the interviews. Thematic analysis was employed to analyse and interpret data. The results indicated that the most prevalent socially desirable features include conscientiousness, dominance, subjective expectations and positive relations. Socially undesirable features that were reported on the most include non-conscientiousness, non-dominance (male), dominance (females), tradition, subjective expectations and negative relations. It is also evident that these features differ from person to person at times due to the rapid modernisation and patterns of Westernisation that people adopt. Most research participants agreed that their behaviour and patterns of thinking and doing are influenced by their culture. Recommendations for future research and practice were made.