Dirty Work and Dirtier Work: Differences in Countering Physical, Social, and Moral Stigma

Blake E. Ashforth, Glen E. Kreiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

151 Scopus citations


The literature on dirty work has focused on what physically (e.g., garbage collectors), socially (e.g., addiction counsellors), and morally (e.g., exotic dancers) stigmatized occupations have in common, implying that dirty work is a relatively monolithic construct. In this article, we focus on the differences between these three forms of dirty work and how occupational members collectively attempt to counter the particular stigma associated with each. We argue that the largest differences are between moral dirty work and the other two forms; if physical and social dirty work tend to be seen as more necessary than evil, then moral dirty work tends to be seen as more evil than necessary. Moral dirty work typically constitutes a graver identity threat to occupational members, fostering greater entitativity (a sense of being a distinct group), a greater reliance on members as social buffers, and a greater use of condemning condemners and organization-level defensive tactics. We develop a series of propositions to formalize our arguments and suggest how this more nuanced approach to studying dirty work can stimulate and inform future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-108
Number of pages28
JournalManagement and Organization Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management


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