The identity literature suggests that the stigma of “dirty work” threatens the ability of occupational members to construct an esteem-enhancing social identity. However, research indicates much the opposite, creating a puzzle we attempt to answer. We argue that the stigma of dirty work fosters development of a strong occupational or workgroup culture, which fosters (1) ideological reframing, recalibrating, and refocusing and (2) selective social comparisons and differential weighting of outsiders’ views. These defense mechanisms transform the meaning of “dirt” and moderate the impact of social perceptions of dirtiness.
Ashforth, B. E., & Kreiner, G. E. (1999). “How can you do it?”: Dirty work and the challenge of constructing a positive identity. Academy of management Review, 24(3), 413-434.