Paper info: Yesterday is gone, tomorrow has not yet come: exploring power shifts in buyer-seller business relationships
Yesterday is gone, tomorrow has not yet come: exploring power shifts in buyer-seller business relationships
Bialystok University of Technology
University of Economics in Katowice
Place of Publication
The paper was published at the 35th IMP-conference in Paris, France in 2019.
The power asymmetry in business relationships has been widely acknowledged in the industrial marketing literature, but there is no consensus with regard to the use of power in buyer-seller relationships, especially with regard to the dysfunctional character of power asymmetry. Our study extends recent empirical work on the dynamics of power asymmetry in business relationships by using a relational perspective (buyers and suppliers) and focusing on both types of power (mediated and non-mediated). We apply a longitudinal case study approach to 4 business dyads, where substantial power shifts occurred between business partners without relationship dissolution. In all of these dyads, the more powerful partner was historically also a strategic partner, e.g. key customer. The research provides evidence that in such strategic business relationships, multidimensional power asymmetry, while being substantial at the beginning of the relationship, may decrease to some extent, with regard to mediated and non-mediated power sources. Our study clearly illustrates that power asymmetry is a very dynamic and complex phenomenon and that there are usually some imbalances with regard to power sources (e.g. coercive, reward, expert power) even as the business relationship evolves towards a more symmetrical form. The study argues that while power asymmetry dynamics may be driven by one side in the business relationship, the extent to which relationships becomes less asymmetrical is based on the interaction between both partners, the relationship cycle and general business environment.