Original Research

Exploring the dark side of interpersonal relationships between buyers and suppliers of logistics services

Arno Meyer, Wesley Niemann, Theuns Kotzé
Acta Commercii | Vol 17, No 1 | a437 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ac.v17i1.437 | © 2017 Arno Meyer, Wesley Niemann, Theuns Kotzé | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 September 2016 | Published: 30 June 2017

About the author(s)

Arno Meyer, Department of Business Management, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Wesley Niemann, Department of Business Management, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Theuns Kotzé, Department of Business Management, University of Pretoria, South Africa


Background: Individuals share information and form relationships to improve collaboration and joint organisational performance. However, managing these interpersonal relationships within a supply chain management perspective is one of the lesser understood and researched areas within this discipline.
Objectives: The research was aimed to investigate the negative effects of interpersonal relationships between those individuals who represent organisations that buy and supply logistics services.
Method: The research was carried out by the use of a descriptive qualitative research design. Eighteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 suppliers and 8 buyers of logistic services within the South African third party logistics industry.
Findings: Firstly, the results indicate that the primary reason for interpersonal relationships is firstly for improved professional interest and secondly for genuine friendships. Without continuing commitment or intention to maintain the interpersonal relationship between these individuals, it is not possible to sustain the associated benefits of forming interpersonal relationships. Secondly, the findings indicate that enhanced trust, within interpersonal relationships, is similar to business-to-business partnerships which evolve through stages of exploration, formalisation and maturity. Organisations should rather focus to improve competence-based trust than individual interpersonal trust. Thirdly, relationship asymmetry, gender differences and the aptitude to adjust to disparate personalities may steer the interpersonal relationship towards the dark side. Lastly, the benefits of interpersonal relationships have been proven; however, these interpersonal relationships may be difficult to manage over time and can also be the foundation of suboptimal decisions if the relationship takes precedence over business interest.
Conclusion: Managers should not underestimate the potential hegemony between individuals who have interpersonal relationships. Relationships require upkeep, personal involvement, attention and trust. Interpersonal relationship intentions without formal safety measures, such as organisational governance and policies, can expose and even diminish the strongest organisational alliances to suboptimal performance and reduced profitability.


Buyer-supplier relationships; dark side; trust; South Africa; 3PL industry; collaboration; qualitative research


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Crossref Citations

1. Industry expectations of supply chain management graduates: Perspectives from third-party logistics providers in South Africa
Marc Allden, Wesley Niemann, Theuns Kotzé
Journal of Transport and Supply Chain Management  vol: 12  year: 2018  
doi: 10.4102/jtscm.v12i0.379