Psychological contract breach: Unraveling the dark side of business-to-business relationships

Alvina Gillani, Smirti Kutaula, Pawan S. Budhwar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While there is an increasing awareness of the importance of developing successful business-to-business relationships, little research has explored the dark side of these relationships. We drew upon the concept of psychological contract, underpinned by social exchange theory to examine breach and the dark side of business-to-business relationships. We conducted in-depth interviews with 24 consultants in the UK and found that breach could take varying forms, resulting in differing levels of intensity of the dark side. The four theoretical categories of breach were classified as minor infractions, negative disruptions, intensified adverse events, and intolerable transgressions, which correspond to low, moderate, high, and very high levels of the dark side of business-to-business relationships, respectively. The dark side behavioral outcomes were identified as self-adjusting, renegotiating, escalating, and departing. We develop a set of research propositions, integrating and extending the business-to-business and psychological contract literature. We also highlight key implications for theory and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631-641
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Business Research
Early online date16 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021


  • Business-to-business relationship
  • Dark side
  • Psychological contract breach
  • Social exchange theory


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