10 June 2014

Occupations can acquire a 'dirty work' stigma because of their physical activities (e.g., animal control officers, morticians), their socially undesirable clients (e.g., social services counsellors, correctional officers), and/or society’s view of the work’s ethics or morals (e.g., sex workers, used car salespeople). Managers in dirty work occupations face unique challenges in helping workers to perform their jobs effectively.

Workers in these occupations have to do the work (which can be difficult, dangerous or unpleasant) but they also have to cope with the stigma attached to their work.  Prof Blake Ashforth will describe his research with managers in 18 dirty work occupations.  His research suggests that three key managerial practices help employees adjust to dirty work:  (1) recruitment/selection practices (e.g., providing a realistic stigma preview); (2) socialisation practices (e.g., easing into dirty work activities); and (3) managerial social support (e.g., providing social validation that workers do not receive from clients or the public).

Blake is the Horace Steele Arizona Heritage Chair in the WP Carey School of Business, Arizona State University, USA. He received his PhD from the University of Toronto, Canada. Blake's research concerns the ongoing dance between individuals and organisations, including identity and identification, socialisation and newcomer work adjustment, and the links among phenomena at the individual, group and organisation level. His more recent research focuses on dirty work (the experience of working in stigmatised occupations such as bill collection and animal control) and ambivalence in organisations (the experience of being simultaneously attracted to and repulsed by a person, group, idea, and so on). Blake is a fellow of the Academy of Management, and has served as an Associate Editor for the Academy of Management Review and Organization Science

Managing 'dirty Work' (and 'dirty workers')

UniSA Video

Professor Blake Ashforth