Organizing the Exploitation of Vulnerable People: A Qualitative Assessment of Human Trafficking

Dean Shepherd*, Vinit Parida, Trent Williams, Joakim Wincent

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Focusing on the organizing practices by which vulnerable individuals are exploited for their labor, we build a model that depicts how human traffickers systematically target impoverished girls and women and transform their autonomous objection into unquestioned compliance. Drawing from qualitative interviews with women forced into labor in the sex industry, human traffickers, brothel managers, and other sources (e.g., doctors, nongovernment organizations, and police officers fighting human trafficking), we inductively theorize that organizing of vulnerable individuals for human exploitation involves four interrelated practices—(1) deceptive recruiting of the vulnerable, (2) entrapping through isolation, (3) extinguishing alternatives by building barriers, and (4) converting the exploited into exploiters—that together erode and eventually eliminate workers’ autonomy. We conclude by discussing implications of our research for theory—specifically, the literature on human exploitation and loss of worker agency.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Management
Publication statusPublished - 23.12.2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • deviant/counterproductive behavior
  • power and politics
  • grounded theory
  • conflict management

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoS: Leading for growth and well-being


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