Congruence work in stigmatized occupations: A managerial lens on employee fit with dirty work

Blake E. Ashforth, Glen E. Kreiner, Mark A. Clark, Mel Fugate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Although research has established that it is often difficult for individuals engaged in dirty work to adjust to stigma and the attributes giving rise to stigma, little theory or empirical work addresses how managers may help workers adjust to dirty work. Interviews with managers across 18 dirty work occupations—physically tainted (e.g., animal control), socially tainted (e.g., corrections), and morally tainted (e.g., exotic entertainment)—indicate that managers engage in “congruence work”: behaviors, sensemaking, and sensegiving that they perceive as helping individuals adjust and develop a stronger sense of person–environment fit. Specifically, congruence work focuses on 3 phases of managerial practices that correspond to individuals' growing experience in the occupation. First, recruitment/selection involves overcoming individuals' aversion to dirty work by selecting individuals with an affinity for the work and providing a realistic stigma preview. Second, socialization involves helping newcomers adjust to distasteful tasks and to stigma by using targeted divestiture, developing perspective taking, helping newcomers manage external relationships, and utilizing desensitization or immersion. Third, ongoing management roles involve cementing individuals' fit by fostering social validation, protecting workers from dirty work hazards, and negotiating the frontstage/backstage boundary. The practices identified as congruence work highlight the important role that managers can play in facilitating adjustment for both “dirty workers” and presumably their less stigmatized counterparts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1260-1279
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Organizational Behavior
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


Dive into the research topics of 'Congruence work in stigmatized occupations: A managerial lens on employee fit with dirty work'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this