Dirty work is defined by Hughes (1958) as tasks that are “physically, socially, or morally” tainted. The stigma associated with taint may make it difficult for “dirty workers” to secure social validation and self-esteem for the work that they do. Our symposium examines how members of dirty work occupations individually and collectively perceive their work and how they attempt to secure positive meaning in the face of stigma. Three papers triangulate on this topic by empirically examining: (1) how managers from a variety of dirty work occupations perceive and adapt to their work, and socialize and motivate their subordinates, (2) how incumbents in a variety of dirty work occupations perceive their work and employ defense mechanisms to ward off stigma, and (3) how incumbents in a particular dirty work job (trucking) develop occupational identification in the face of stigma. Our intent, then, is to build on theoretical treatments of stigma management by studying dirty work occupations both in breadth (various occupations) and in depth (a single occupation) and from the perspective of front line employees and their managers. Finally, our fourth paper extends the theoretical treatment on stigma management by complementing the prevailing focus on cognitive defenses with a focus on behavioral defenses. The symposium is relevant to any occupation and organization where the social construction of meaning is problematic.
'Dirty Work' is in the eye of the beholder: new directions in how individuals cope with stigmatized occupations / B., Ashforth; G., Kreiner; M., Clark; M., Fugate; Bertolotti, Fabiola; J., Kinnett; J., Dukerich; J., Newman; M., Logan; A., O'Leary Kelly; E., Whitener; A., Wrzesniewski. - ELETTRONICO. - OB Symposium Abstracts:(2001), pp. 34-34. (Intervento presentato al convegno How Governments matter tenutosi a Washington D.C. nel 3-8 august).