Mitigating Mechanisms for the Dark Side of Collaborative Buyer–Supplier Relationships: A Mixed-Method Study

Verónica H. Villena, Thomas Y. Choi, Elena Revilla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Scholars have called attention to the dark side of collaborative buyer–supplier relationships (BSRs). For instance, the loss of objectivity, relational inertia, and redundant knowledge bases emerging from too much collaboration may result in declining performance. We extend this line of research by investigating the feasibility of potential mitigating mechanisms. Drawing from the literature on governance in inter-organizational relationships and the interviews with practitioners that have experienced the dark side, we have identified three mechanisms: challenging goals, contractual explicitness, and expectation of continuity. We examine these mechanisms empirically through two consecutive studies. The first study collected data on 132 buying firms and 28 matched suppliers from two sources (survey and archival database). The results provide support for challenging goals and contractual explicitness but offer mixed results for expectation of continuity. The data also allow us to identify buyers suffering from excessive collaboration with their suppliers. In the second study, we gathered qualitative data on five pairs of such buyers and their matched suppliers. Different pairs show different behaviors. Some buyer and supplier firms seem unaware of their predicament, while others are grappling with fighting back the dark side. This qualitative study also offers additional manifestations of the dark side and mechanisms beyond the ones examined in our first study and explains why expectation of continuity received mixed results. This research advances the BSR literature by demonstrating that it is possible to mitigate the dysfunctionalities emerging from too much collaboration and by providing some evidence for its subtle manifestations. It also reveals the managerial complexity surrounding the dark side and provides future research directions for this important topic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-116
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Supply Chain Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management Information Systems
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Marketing


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