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How does social isolation in a context of dirty work increase emotional exhaustion and inhibit work engagement? A process model

Kathleen Bentein (School of Management, Université du Québec à Montréal (ESG-UQAM), Montreal, Canada)
Alice Garcia (Université Toulouse III Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France)
Sylvie Guerrero (School of Management, Université du Québec à Montréal (ESG-UQAM), Montreal, Canada)
Olivier Herrbach (Université de Bordeaux, IAE Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 6 November 2017

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the consequences of experiencing social isolation in a context of dirty work. Relying on an integration of the job demands-resources model (Schaufeli and Bakker, 2004) with the social identity approach (Ashforth and Kreiner, 1999), the paper posits that perceived social isolation prevents the development of defense mechanisms that could counter the occupational stigma, and thus tends to increase perceptions of stigmatization, and to decrease perceptions of the prosocial impact of their work. Through these two perceptions, perceived social isolation indirectly affects emotional exhaustion and work engagement.

Design/methodology/approach

Research hypotheses are tested among a sample of 195 workers in the commercial cleaning industry who execute physically tainted tasks.

Findings

Results support the research model. Perceived prosocial impact mediates the negative relationship between perceived social isolation and work engagement, and perceived stigmatization mediates the positive relationship between perceived social isolation and emotional exhaustion.

Research limitations/implications

This research contributes to the dirty work literature by empirically examining one of its implicit assumptions, namely, that social isolation prevents the development of coping strategies. It also contributes to the literature on well-being and work engagement by demonstrating how they are affected by the social context of work.

Originality/value

The present paper is the first to study the specific challenges of social isolation in dirty work occupations and its consequences.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors thank the Cigedil research committee of the University of Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier and the Regional Council of Midi Pyrénées, Toulouse, that have funded the study.

Citation

Bentein, K., Garcia, A., Guerrero, S. and Herrbach, O. (2017), "How does social isolation in a context of dirty work increase emotional exhaustion and inhibit work engagement? A process model", Personnel Review, Vol. 46 No. 8, pp. 1620-1634. https://doi.org/10.1108/PR-09-2016-0227

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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