Socially dirty work: A conservation of resource perspective
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AbstractIn our society, stigmatized individuals represent a significant portion of the population. They carry “undesirable, deviant, or repulsive” attributes, as defined by the social context, and are often devalued, distanced or even discriminated by others (Ragins, 2008, p. 196). Examples of stigmatized individuals include people with physical deformity or disability, such as obese individuals; people with socially unacceptable behaviors such as child abusers and criminals; and members of tainted groups, such as ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians and so on. Being victims of social exclusion and discrimination, stigmatized individuals, often require help. Professional employees, such as doctors, nurses, police, social workers, have close contact with these stigmatized individuals to either upkeep social order or provide assistance.
Extant research on personal stigma examined the effects of stigma on the stigmatized individuals (e.g., Devers, Dewett, Mishina, & Belsito, 2009; Ramona, Paetzol, Dipboye, & Elsbach, 2008), negative treatments towards stigmatized individuals (Kang, DeCelles, Tilcsik & Jun 2016; Levine & Schweitzer, 2015), and their coping strategies (Ashforth & Kreiner, 1999; Gray & Kish-Gephart, 2008). Stigma by association effects alert us that personal stigma can be contagious to others who do not possess the stigmatized attributes but are proximate stigmatized individuals (Hernandez, Avery, Tonidandel, Hebl, Smith, & McKay, 2015; Kulik, Bainbridge & Cregan, 2008). However, there is little research on the effects of a person’s stigma on proximate others. In this study, we address this research void by examining organizational employees who are required to work with stigmatized clients because of their occupational requirements. We raise a fundamental question whether client stigma will spillover to their service providers such that their wellbeing and job attitudes will be negatively affected. Given that contact with stigmatized clients is a job requirement, we study how job incumbents cope with the challenges.
In addressing the stated research questions, we draw on the stigma research and the conservation of resource theory as our guiding lenses. Extant stigma research informs us that stigma creates identity threat such that stigmatized individuals are prone to low self-esteem (Major & O’Brien, 2005) and negative evaluations by the general public (Goffman, 1963). Very often, stigmatized individuals are required to come up with identity protection and restructuring strategies (Crocker, Major, & Steel, 1998; Petriglieri, 2008) to manage the stigma-related threat to their personal identity. In addition, stigma can be contagious and proximate others can become stigmatized and experience identity threat though they do not possess any stigmatizing attributes (Kulik et al., 2008).
Mechanisms of personal identity threat has been the dominant explanation of the experience of stigmatized individuals but it does not cover the whole story for individuals working with stigmatized others. Stigmatized individuals are poor partners for exchange (Park, Faulkner, & Schaller, 2003; Major & O’Brien, 2005): They often receive worse treatments, devaluations, and even discrimination from the society and even with a lot of help from surrounding others, many do not make much progress. As proximate others of stigmatized individuals, their investment of resources often does not receive a proportional return. This phenomenon opens up a resource loss perspective which has not been discussed before.
Drawing on the conservation of resource theory, we propose a different lens in examining people surrounding stigmatized individuals.
Acceptance Date17/01/2018
All Author(s) ListWen S., Lau D.
Name of ConferenceInternational Association for Chinese Management Research (IACMR) Conference 2018
Start Date of Conference13/06/2018
End Date of Conference17/06/2018
Place of ConferenceWuhan
Country/Region of ConferenceChina
LanguagesEnglish-United States

Last updated on 2018-19-10 at 16:20