Shouldering a silent burden: The toll of dirty tasks Academic Article uri icon


  • 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.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Baran, B. E., Rogelberg, S. G., Lopina, E. C., Allen, J. A., Spitzmueller, C., & Bergman, M.

citation count

  • 66

complete list of authors

  • Baran, Benjamin E||Rogelberg, Steven G||Lopina, Erika Carello||Allen, Joseph A||Spitzmueller, Christiane||Bergman, Mindy

publication date

  • May 2012