Shouldering a silent burden: The toll of dirty tasks

Benjamin E. Baran, Steven G. Rogelberg, Erika Carello Lopina, Joseph A. Allen, Christiane Spitzmüller, Mindy Bergman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Dirty work involves tasks that are stigmatized owing to characteristics that the public finds disgusting, degrading, or objectionable. Conservation of resources theory suggests such experiences should induce strain and decreased work satisfaction; social identity theory suggests such work should lead to strong psychological investment in the work, among other outcomes. Integrating these two perspectives, this study hypothesizes and presents quantitative evidence from 499 animal-shelter workers, demonstrating how dirty-work engagement relates to higher levels of strain, job involvement, and reluctance to discuss work while negatively influencing work satisfaction. Additionally, this study takes a unique perspective on dirty work by focusing on dirty tasks within a dirty-work occupation. The data suggest meaningful differences between the outcomes of dirty-task frequency and dirty-task psychological salience, providing additional insight into the complexity of stigmatized occupations and ways in which future research and theory benefit as a result.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-626
Number of pages30
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012


  • animal euthanasia
  • animal shelters
  • burnout
  • coping
  • dirty tasks
  • dirty work
  • identity
  • job involvement
  • management
  • psychology
  • social identity
  • strain
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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