After the fall: Developing a conceptual script-based model of shame in narratives of entrepreneurs in crisis!

Robert H. Smith, Gerard Mcelwee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this paper is to investigate the role of shame in entrepreneurship. Extant research in relation to the entrepreneurial process has tended to concentrate upon the entrepreneur as hero and other positive aspects of the process. Consequently, the darker sides of the entrepreneurial personality and enterprise culture such as the role of shame remain a relatively under researched facet of entrepreneurship theory. Despite this dearth of actual empirical studies, the negative aspects of entrepreneurial behaviour associated with the “flawed hero model of entrepreneurship” are implicitly understood. These negative aspects include hubris, tragedy, narcissism, overstretching, hedonism, personality disorders, status anxiety, selfcenteredness, destructive relationships, alcoholism, suicide and the most heinous of all, business failure. The paper considers the deeply social phenomenon of shame on the entrepreneur and his or her world by developing a conceptual model of shame. The social script of shame is analysed as found in novels and as found in real life newspaper reports of such epic tragedies, using a chosen methodology of narrative analysis. The world portrayed in narrative is very much a “man's world” in which shame is a personal construct, a penance to be endured or ended and in the process a narrative script is developed. Shame is a deeply personal cognitive emotion easier to study in narrative than in person. From the stories of flawed heroes we construct a holistic model of possible entrepreneurial trajectories that take cognisance of wellbeing issues and cover the unspoken events that occur after a fall from grace. But why should we expect the story to end with the entrepreneur in crisis staring into the abyss? Little previous work has been undertaken to explore entrepreneurial shame using both the entrepreneurship literature and narrative analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-109
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


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