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Jumped, Pushed or Forgotten? Approaches to Dissolution

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Not all relationships are destined to last. Although the literature offers a range of causes of dissolution in buyer-seller relationship no clear framework of dissolution categories or company behaviour for each category has been developed. This study takes a conceptual and empirical look at relationship dissolution and offers a typology of dissolution categories. A qualitative approach drawing from nine in-depth interviews of managers of long-term buyer-supplier relationships confirmed that dissolution falls into one of four categories: voluntary dissolution (bilateral agreement to terminate relations), unilateral involuntary dissolution by either buyer or supplier (customer de-selection/supplier de-selection), and bilateral involuntary dissolution (a fading away of relations). Different exit communication styles were employed for each category of dissolution. Voluntary decisions to terminate relations are likely to be communicated by direct but amicable means indicating a potentially revocable state of dissolution. Customer de-selection and supplier de-selection dissolution types tend to be much more covert with one party either undermining the relationship or else blaming the other for problems, often leading to hostility between the parties and largely irrevocable future relations. The fourth type, fading away, is characterised by a lack of positive action and communication by either party. The implications for the four quadrants of dissolution are considered and in addition to offering a number of propositions the management of dissolution in order to encourage revocable/amicable dissolution is explored.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2003-02-01

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