The September issue of the Journal of Marketing features a paper co-authored by Corine Noordhoff. They describe a phenomenon they call the "dark side" of close relationships and maintain that close relationships that seem quite stable can, in fact. subject: The Dark Side of Close Relationships Spitzberg, Brian H. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. English .
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this example is not that it happened but that it is so well documented. Another example comes from the Italian construction industry. Operating like a cartel, the group members protected each other from competitive pressures by restraining and controlling competition among themselves. This approach worked well for a number of years as the entire network benefited from higher and more efficient levels of business.
Over time, however, this network of 49 contractors developed some destabilizing properties that produced negative returns for all involved. By insulating each other from the pressures of the market, the contractors unwittingly removed the external pressure that encourages companies to innovate and progress.
As a result, the 49 companies gradually became inefficient. This slowed the pace of progress in the entire industry since ordinarily large firms set an example for other firms. That the top companies became uncompetitive meant that the construction industry in Italy suffered, as did customers that were getting poor value for their money.
Is there a dark side of close relationships?
Again the close relationships that were carefully constructed to provide the network with a competitive advantage paradoxically became the weakest links. These cases are not isolated examples of an unusual phenomenon. Consider more recent findings indicating that long-term relationships with customers are not always profitable.
Countless companies have set up loyalty programs and rewards for faithful customers with the expectation of higher returns. And initially, this is what the businesses got. However, gradually many of these companies have discovered that long-standing customers, particularly those that do business in high volumes, know their value and tend to exploit it to get premium service and price discounts.
As it turns out, long-standing customers in loyalty clubs are more price-sensitive than occasional customers because the former are generally more knowledgeable about products and quality. These customers also seem to resent firms that try to profit from their loyalty. Thus, it appears that loyalty programs put into place to reap the value of long-term relationships have often backfired and been undermined by the onset of the dark side of close relationships.
How the Dark Side Develops In all of these examples, the relationships were purposefully shaped and developed to generate substantial returns for both parties.
Yet for one reason or another, the mechanisms created to expand the pie of benefits for the parties also became the very poison that ruined their efforts.
To understand why, we will examine three such mechanisms more closely: Immediate Benefits Close relationships are built with the expectation of benefits accruing to both parties.
These benefits fuel the future of the relationship and give the parties an incentive to stick together.
The Dark Side of Close Relationships
However, it is also the case that short-run benefits can outweigh long-run benefits. In the Italian construction example, the formation of the network improved coordination, control and resource distribution while minimizing risk. Multiple case studies have shown that such networks, particularly for small-to-midsize companies, can be invaluable for organizing the production of the members and sharing risk. So the creation of the Italian construction industry network was good for the short term but should not have persisted into the long run.
This trade-off between short-term and long-term gains is a natural point of tension for many business relationships.
Strong Interpersonal Relationships Another common directive for forming successful relationships is to establish strong, trusting relationships among individuals in a partnership. Strong relationships create flexibility and a responsiveness that benefits the alliance. In the automotive industry example, management of both the automaker and its supplier encouraged personnel to forge close relationships and held social activities to accomplish this.
This enabled the just-intime delivery system between the firms to work smoothly and efficiently. However, while cozy relationships sound good in theory, such relationships also provide an opportunity for covert activities designed to systematically cheat a partner such as shirking on the painting process to develop.
In this vein, strong interpersonal relationships between individuals can help explain the growing number of scandals emerging from the financial industry that involve individual fund managers and their exploitation of clients and resources.
While trusting relationships were put in place to enable the fund managers to more efficiently manage financial returns for their clients, these relationships also provided opportunity for the fund managers to systematically cheat their clients on an ongoing basis. Strong interpersonal relationships can also cause problems in sales when sales reps form such close relationships with clients that they are able to take these clients with them when they leave the firm. For example, we found examples of stockbrokers who were able to change from one employer to another, collecting bonuses each time, on the strength of their ability to bring their customers with them; some brokers we studied had changed employers as many as six times in three years.
The good news about such privileged relationships is that both parties should be able to do more together. The bad news is that, over the long run, the parties may lose touch with alternatives that represent a better way to do things and thus may fail to innovate. In the Italian construction example, the network of 49 contractors enabled better coordination of needs and resources and reduced the risk for any given member.
Thus, the network was inwardly focused, and over time, innovations that developed outside the network failed to permeate the group.
These three factors — immediate benefits, strong interpersonal relationships and unique processes — often figure prominently in close relationships. With all of these features, the tension between being flexible and rigid is what renders close business relationships unstable.
Alliances that are too rigid or too flexible cannot achieve success.The Truth About Adam Levine And Blake Shelton's Relationship
The key is to develop a relationship in which the partners are able to respond to market or environmental changes yet have enough rigidity or structure to create stakes for both parties and motivate them to act in the best interest of their relationship. Suppressing the Dark Side Given that we recognize and understand the dark side of close relationships, how can it be suppressed?
As always, prevention is the best medicine. Bolstering relationships — through regular evaluation, backup plans and crisis management — helps create efficient, motivated and productive relationships that allow partners to take risks, try out new ideas and determine creative ways to expand their joint pie of benefits.
While the same factors that serve as incentives to partner can also lead to the dark-side phenomenon, firms often can prevent or heal relationship decay through specific strategies. Evaluate Older Relationships One of the best approaches for maintaining the initial benefits of a close business relationship is constantly to evaluate the relationship.
Be wary of developing a take-it-for-granted mind-set and putting the relationship on cruise control. Rotating personnel through the front lines is one way to invigorate business relationships; a fresh set of eyes is always invaluable. Every two years, the managers are moved to a different region of the country, and they must work with those dealers to better promote and sell Lincoln and Mercury cars.
This rotation system prevents relationships with dealers from becoming complacent, and the relationships benefit from the experience of managers who have been exposed to the methods, strategies and approaches used in other regions. Focus on Profitability Long-term relationships with customers can become costly, as customers may expect and demand lower prices in exchange for loyalty.
Keeping an eye on profitability, not revenue, can help prevent such problems from developing. Companies should be aware that the cost of providing service to customers who frequently buy low-margin products may outweigh the revenue they bring in.
Instead, companies should calculate the average profitability of each customer or customer segment in any typical purchase period; in this information-rich age, many companies can easily calculate the profitability of their customers from historical sales data.
Develop Backups Every important relationship or situation needs a backup act. Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil, which produces innovative entertainment performances, maintains a bank of musicians, clowns, acrobats and various artists who are available to take the place of any performer in any of its shows.
Much as a hospital may maintain backup generators so that its surgeons can continue to perform critical surgery if there is an electricity outage, key relationships also need good backups. Consider the example of the automaker and the supplier that cut corners. In that situation, the managers who were the relationship custodians ultimately became the conduit for the dark side.
Generally, a key relationship should not rest on the interpersonal relationship between two individual managers. Other individuals should be involved on both sides of the partnership on an ongoing basis.
While this may appear inefficient and redundant, it can serve as a worthwhile safeguard. We studied relationships between agricultural-product distributors and their suppliers and found that, when things are going well, the interpersonal relationships of individual managers help the intercompany relationship to perform well.
However, the value of interpersonal relationships evaporates when trouble begins to develop. Many companies make the mistake of waiting until this point to begin sending in the troops to tackle the meltdown: Upper management, lawyers, mediators and the like arrive on the scene to investigate and repair the relationship.
A more effective approach is to focus on the potential loss, as opposed to a loss that already exists. The company that focuses on potential losses is one that understands the importance of having multiple people or teams involved in a relationship on an ongoing basis. Establish Common Goals Having common goals is another critical safeguard against relationship difficulties. When all is well, these goals seem to fade into the background as business is carried out.
However, our research suggests that when the relationship develops problems, the partners will review their goals and reevaluate why their relationship was formed in the first place. This reconsideration is often helpful for restabilizing the relationship and recharting its course. Avoid the Spiral of Suspicion Although it is important to be vigilant, one can also be too zealous in efforts to mitigate the dark side. An overwhelming feeling of distrust can be as dangerous as blind trust and can lead partners to fall into a spiral of suspicion.
Its partner begins to notice this change in behavior, and it, too, becomes suspicious. So this partner also begins to withdraw and modify its behavior, which only further fuels the initial misapprehensions of the uneasy partner. In a study involving confidential interviews and data on approximately industrial partnerships, we observed that, in a significant portion of the sample, this dysfunctional spiral of suspicion formed and gave momentum to relationship deterioration.
This is not a new phenomenon. A classic example of the spiral of suspicion occurred in the s, when General Motors Corp. In this case, Julie is engaging in counterjealousy induction—meaning she cheated on Mohammed in order to elicit in him the same jealousy she feels. Sexual desire can also motivate or be used to justify ERA. Individuals may seek out sexual activity to boost their self-esteem or prove sexual attractiveness.
In some cases, sexual incompatibility with a partner such as different sex drives or sexual interests can motivate or be used to justify ERA. However, the sexual gratification and emotional exhilaration of an affair can give way to a variety of negative consequences for psychological and physical health.
While sexual desire is a strong physiological motive for ERA, revenge is a strong emotional motive. Engaging in ERA to get revenge may result from a sense of betrayal by a partner and a desire to get back at them. In some cases, an individual may try to make the infidelity and the revenge more personal by engaging in ERA with a relative, friend, or ex of their partner. In general, people who would engage in this type of behavior are predisposed to negative reciprocity as a way to deal with conflict and feel like getting back at someone is the best way to get justice.
Whether it is motivated by jealousy, sexual desire, or revenge, ERA has the potential to stir up emotions from the dark side of relationships. Anger and Aggression We only have to look at some statistics to get a startling picture of violence and aggression in our society: Violence and abuse definitely constitute a dark side of interpersonal relationships. Even though we often focus on the physical aspects of violence, communication plays an important role in contributing to, preventing, and understanding interpersonal violence.
Unlike violence that is purely situational, like a mugging, interpersonal violence is constituted within ongoing relationships, and it is often not an isolated incident Johnson, Violence occurs in all types of relationships, but our discussion focuses on intimate partner violence and family violence.
Intimate partner violence IPV refers to physical, verbal, and emotional violence that occurs between two people who are in or were recently in a romantic relationship. In order to understand the complexity of IPV, it is important to understand that there are three types: While control is often the cause of violence, it is usually short-term control e.
In intimate terrorism ITone partner uses violence to have general control over the other. The quest for control takes the following forms: Violent resistance VR is another type of violence between intimate partners and is often a reaction or response to intimate terrorism IT. The key pattern in VR is that the person resisting uses violence as a response to a partner that is violent and controlling; however, the resistor is not attempting to control.
In short, VR is most often triggered by living with an intimate terrorist. There are very clear and established gender influences on these two types of violence. The overwhelming majority of IT violence is committed by men and directed toward women, and most VR is committed by women and directed at men who are intimate terrorists.
Statistics on violence show that more than one thousand women a year are killed by their male partners, while three hundred men are killed by their female partners, mostly as an act of violent resistance to ongoing intimate terrorism Johnson, The influence of gender on the third type of IPV is not as uneven.
Situational couple violence SCV is the most common type of IPV and does not involve a quest for control in the relationship. Instead, SCV is provoked by a particular situation that is emotional or difficult that leads someone to respond or react with violence. SCV can play out in many ways, ranging from more to less severe and isolated to frequent.
Even if SCV is frequent and severe, the absence of a drive for control distinguishes it from intimate terrorism. This is the type of violence we most often imagine when we hear the term domestic violence.
Domestic violence also includes other types of abuse such as child-to-parent abuse, sibling abuse, and elder abuse. But what are the communicative aspects of child abuse? In the case of abusive parents, they are not as able to distinguish between mistakes and intentional behaviors, often seeing honest mistakes as intended and reacting negatively to the child.
Other negative effects of child abuse include lower self-esteem and erratic or aggressive behavior. Although we most often think of children as the targets of violence, they can also be perpetrators. Reports of adolescent-to-parent abuse are increasing, although there is no reliable statistic on how prevalent this form of domestic violence is, given that parents may be embarrassed to report it or may hope that they can handle the situation themselves without police intervention.
Adolescent-to-parent abuse usually onsets between ages ten and fourteen Eckstein, Mothers are more likely to be the target of this abuse than fathers, and when the abuse is directed at fathers, it most often comes from sons.
Abusive adolescents may also direct their aggression at their siblings.
7.6 The Dark Side of Relationships
Research shows that abusive adolescents are usually not reacting to abuse directed at them. Parents report that their children engage in verbal, emotional, and physical attacks in order to wear them down to get what they want.
Aggression and even abuse directed from child to parent is becoming more of an issue. While physical violence has great potential for causing injury or even death, psychological and emotional abuse can also be present in any relationship form. Psychological abuse can lead to higher rates of depression, anxiety, stress, eating disorders, and attempts at suicide.
The discussion of the dark side of relationships shows us that communication can be hurtful on a variety of fronts. In fact, there is an organization called Civility Partners, LLC devoted to ending workplace bullying—you can visit their website at http: While there are often mechanisms in place to help an employee deal with harassment—reporting to Human Resources for example—the situation may be trickier if the bully is your boss. In this case, many employees may be afraid to complain for fear of retaliation like getting fired, and transferring to another part of the company or getting another job altogether is a less viable option in a struggling economy.
How can you distinguish between a boss who is demanding or a perfectionist and a boss who is a bully? If you were being bullied by someone at work, what would you do?
The Dark Side of Relationships
Key Takeaways The dark side of relationships exists in relation to the light side and includes actions that are deemed unacceptable by society at large and actions that are unproductive for those in the relationship. Lying does not always constitute a dark side of relationships, as altruistic lies may do more good than harm.
However, the closer a relationship, the more potential there is for lying to have negative effects. Extradyadic romantic activity involves sexual or emotional contact with someone other than a primary romantic partner and is most often considered cheating or infidelity and can result in jealousy, anger, or aggression. There are three main types of intimate partner violence IPV.
Intimate terrorism IT involves violence used to have general control over the other person. Violent resistance VR is usually a response or reaction to violence from an intimate terrorist. Situational couple violence SCV is the most common type of IPV and is a reaction to stressful situations and does not involve a quest for control.
Exercises Describe a situation in which lying affected one of your interpersonal relationships. What was the purpose of the lie and how did the lie affect the relationship?