Psychologically Gaining through Losing: A Metaphor Analysis

Linda Du Plessis, Hong T.M. Bui*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (SciVal)


    Purpose - This paper conceptualises how managers psychologically experience and respond to crises via metaphor analysis. Design/methodology/approach - This paper uses a discourse dynamics approach to metaphor analysis. Conceptual metaphors were analysed and developed into concept maps through 37 semi-structured interviews with senior managers from different portfolios within 16 public universities in South Africa after #FeesMustFall protests. Findings - Five domains emerged, including (i) looming crisis, (ii) crisis onset, (iii) crisis triage and containment, (iv) (not) taking action, and (vi) post-crisis reflection. These domains shape a framework for the crisis adaptation cycle. Originality ? This is a rare investigation into the emotions of senior managers in the public sector in a social movement and national crisis via unconventional research methods to advance cognitive appraisal theory in crisis management. Practical implications - This study suggests that organisations should pay more attention to understanding emotions in crises and can use the adaptation model to develop their managers. It shows how metaphors can help explain affective and cognitive experiences and how emotions shift and evolve during a crisis. Managers should be aware of early signs of the crisis and its potential impact on their business operation in the looming and recognition stages, analyse the situation and work collectively on possible actions to minimise losses and maximise gains.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Managerial Psychology
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 15 Feb 2024


    Funding: This research study was made possible through a collaborative University Capacity Development Grant that was awarded by the DHET to Nelson Mandela University.

    FundersFunder number
    Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University


      • metaphor analysis
      • crisis
      • senior manager
      • cognitive appraisal
      • sensemaking


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