Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Management Communication Quarterly 25:2 (2011), pp. 353–374; doi: 10.1177/0893318910386445 Copyright © 2011 Kristen Lucas; published by Sage Publications. Used by permission.


People generally possess a strong desire to construct positive, dignified work identities. However, this goal may be more challenging for some people, such as blue-collar workers, whose occupations may not offer qualities typically associated with workplace dignity. Interviews with 37 people from a blue-collar mining community reveal three central identity discourses about workplace dignity: All jobs are important and valuable; dignity is located in the quality of the job performed; and dignity emerges from the way people treat and are treated by others. Participants communicated these themes by backgrounding their own occupations and drawing comparisons between two outgroups, low-status, low-paid dirty workers and high-prestige, white-collar professionals. Implications for understanding how identity work is negotiated and for managing a blue-collar workforce are explained.