Percepções de exploração nas relações de trabalho: Impacto na saúde e comportamento dos colaboradores


Perceived exploitative working relationships are not a problem of a bygone era nor are they confined to developing countries, but rather the current pandemic spotlights how organizations are treating their employees as survival becomes the imperative. At what cost? Maria Grazia Giammarinaro (U.N. special rapporteur) reports that “the abuse of vulnerable workers - such as those deemed as essential - had increased “alarmingly” due to COVID-19, leaving many facing starvation and forced to accept exploitative conditions” (Reuters, July 30, 2020). Moreover, last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Labor Organization (ILO) concluded that long working hours kill hundreds of thousands of people a year from stroke and ischemic heart disease. Combined with the increasing use of new forms of work, outsourcing, technology advancements, less legal regulation, COVID-19 has added fertilizer to ripening conditions for organizations to exploit its employees.

Consequently, this fast-paced and uncertain context coupled with the ongoing COVID-19 situation fuels a conductive environment for organizational mistreatment – organizations acting malevolently towards their employees in order to survive or thrive. One of these forms of organizational mistreatment is organizational exploitation. Drawing on seminal works in political economy and sociology, recent literature defines exploitation as employees' perceptions that they have been purposefully taken advantage of in their relationship with the organization to benefit the organization itself. Specifically, these perceptions of exploitation include: the organization uses and mistreats the employees, forces them into a contract that solely benefits the organization, does not compensate them adequately despite expecting employees to go to work at any time, does not provide job security and can dismiss employee at its convenience, uses employees’ ideas without asking or acknowledging and, does not care if it harms their employees.  Such experiences and perceptions have the potential to undermine and erode employees’ attitudes towards their organization. However, less is known about its impact on employee health and behavior. This is particularly important given the implications of COVID-19 itself for employee health.


Our project aims to provide novel insights into when and why perceptions of exploitation impair employees’ health and its consequences for work-related behaviors and it goes beyond understanding the exploitation of essential employees and low-paid employees and contributes to current debates on how labor markets facilitate the emergence of modern-day exploitation. It also puts the social and economic spotlight on organizations in an attempt to understand the impact of their actions for employees. Moreover, Bapuji et al. (2020) recently made a case for the social and economic impact of multinational companies’ strategic decisions by claiming that they do not do enough for their employees, hurting employees at home and overseas. Findings will have policy implications, and evidence-based recommendations will facilitate the minimization and prevention of perceptions of exploitation and raise awareness of the deleterious consequences of exploitative working relationships in developed countries. 




The main challenge is to understand the prevalence and impact of exploitative work relationships. Exploitative employment relationships may indeed be more prevalent than one intuitively thinks, and several research questions emerge: Do employees’ perceptions of exploitation have negative consequences for their health and subsequent behaviors? What potential mechanisms explain these consequences beyond the number of hours worked and the nature of the work? Are there individual-level factors that buffer or amplify the effects of perceived exploitation on health and behavioral outcomes?




Using a mixed-method approach, we plan to conduct interviews, experiments and surveys to investigate how and why exploitation is related to employee health and behaviors. Measuring health outcomes using technology (smartwatches), we hypothesize that individuals’ perceptions of exploitation are likely to lead to sustained cognitive effort and depletion of resources that in turn impacts their mental (psychological well-being) and physical health (sleep quality, emotional exhaustion, somatic complaints), as well negative behaviors toward the organization (absenteeism and presenteeism, actual turnover).

Impacto Investigação Académica


This project will contribute theoretically and empirically to a critical yet overlooked area of research in the field of management – the impact of perceptions of exploitative working relationships on employee health, well-being and behavior. Specifically:

a) This research is innovative and novel for EOR and management literature, since 1) most of research on the field has been focused on attitudes and behaviors (such as performance and citizenship behaviors) neglecting its impact on health; and 2) use of other sources (coworkers, spouses) and technology to collect health-related data as a complement to self-rated survey data.

b) We believe our results will influence how organizations, managers and employees view the employment relationship and its wider impact, namely in terms of the prevalence of exploitative working relationships perceptions, its impact on individual and collective health, and the tools that can be used to minimize (and in some circumstances prevent) this negative impact.

c) It has potential to impact policies and organizational strategies in the pursue of a decent and healthy workplace.

d) This research has potential to stimulate debates and further research around what organizations do when facing economic constraints and establish pathways to avoid worker exploitation.

Parceiros Internos
Centro de Investigação Grupo de Investigação Papel no Projeto Data de Início Data de Fim
BRU-Iscte Grupo de Comportamento Organizacional e Recursos Humanos Parceiro 2023-03-01 2026-02-28
Parceiros Externos

Não foram encontrados registos.

Equipa de Projeto
Nome Afiliação Papel no Projeto Data de Início Data de Fim
Sandra Costa Professora Auxiliar (DRHCO); Investigadora Integrada (BRU-Iscte); Investigadora Responsável 2023-03-01 2026-02-28
Financiamentos do Projeto
Código/Referência Tipo de Financiamento Entidade Financiadora Programa de Financiamento País Valor Financiado (Global) Valor Financiado (Local) Data de Início Data de Fim
2022.09289.PTDC Contrato FCT PTDC -- 222583 222583 2023-03-01 2026-02-28
Outputs (Publicações)

Não foram encontrados registos.

Dados de Investigação Relacionados

Não foram encontrados registos.

Referências nos Media Relacionadas

Não foram encontrados registos.

Outputs (Outros)

Não foram encontrados registos.

Ficheiros do projeto

Não foram encontrados registos.

Com o objetivo de aumentar a investigação direcionada para o cumprimento dos Objetivos do Desenvolvimento Sustentável para 2030 das Nações Unidas, é disponibilizada no Ciência-IUL a possibilidade de associação, quando aplicável, dos projetos científicos aos Objetivos do Desenvolvimento Sustentável. Estes são os Objetivos do Desenvolvimento Sustentável identificados para este projeto. Para uma informação detalhada dos Objetivos do Desenvolvimento Sustentável, clique aqui.

Percepções de exploração nas relações de trabalho: Impacto na saúde e comportamento dos colaboradores