Metaphors and sensemaking: understanding the taint associated with dirty work

Catherine Cassell (Leeds University Business School, Leeds University, Leeds, UK)
Vicky Bishop (Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Publication date: 8 September 2014



The purpose of this paper is to consider how taxi drivers understand the customer service relationship as “dirty work” by examining the strategies they use to manage the taint associated with their work.


An innovative qualitative approach is taken that focuses upon the analysis of metaphors elicited in interviews with 24 taxi drivers.


Four different metaphorical understandings of the customer service relationship are provided: heroes, confidante, the unworthy, and predator. These metaphors are explained through a series of “hidden transcripts” (Scott, 1990). The impact of these different metaphors and hidden transcripts as sensemaking devices is addressed.


The paper uses an innovative qualitative method to argue that the construction of work as “dirty” or otherwise is located within the customer service interaction.



Cassell, C. and Bishop, V. (2014), "Metaphors and sensemaking: understanding the taint associated with dirty work", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 254-269.

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