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Negative critical waves in business relationships: an extension of the critical incident perspective
Service Research Center, Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden.
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Industrial Economics. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology. Department of Marketing, Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland. (Industriell marknadsföring)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4081-9737
Department of Marketing, Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland.
Department of Marketing, Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland.
2014 (English)In: The journal of business & industrial marketing, ISSN 0885-8624, Vol. 29, no 4, 284-294 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]


This study aims to extend understanding of business-to-business relationship dynamics by introducing and discussing the phenomenon of a ‘negative critical wave’ (NCW), defined as a disturbance in a relationship that emerges and develops within or beyond individual working relationships.


The dynamics of working relationships in two manufacturing firms in Finland and Sweden were studied by analysing the narratives of unstructured personal interviews with 16 middle managers and 14 operational executives, who recalled experiences of relevant situations over three years, with emphasis on unexpected disturbances, challenges and problems.


Respondents discussed 77 NCWs, the development and effect of which proved to depend upon the original ‘locus’, ‘magnitude’ and ‘amplitude’, and embedded ‘energy’. Waves could be distinguished as: ‘silent compact’, ‘silent extensive’, ‘intense compact’ or ‘intense extensive’.

Research limitations/implications

The wave metaphor for relationships dynamics, consistent with but distinct from established notions of ‘critical time’ and ‘critical incidents’ and the associated classification system are a useful starting point for further research into the phenomenon. Though the qualitative methodology achieved richness, the small sample and restricted scope place limits on the objectivity and generalisability of the findings.

Practical implications

The NCW framework offers strategists and managers a holistic understanding of the dynamic process of criticality, synthesising the complexities of relationship dynamics and pointing to ways in which to absorb the energy of negative waves.

Originality/value of the paper

More is now known about the domino effects of critical incidents in internal and external business-to-business relationships.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2014. Vol. 29, no 4, 284-294 p.
Keyword [en]
business-to-business, working relationships, critical incidents, relationship dynamics, verbatim narratives
National Category
Business Administration
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-106052DOI: 10.1108/JBIM-08-2013-0159ISI: 000341888300003OAI: diva2:713189
Available from: 2014-04-22 Created: 2014-04-22 Last updated: 2014-10-14Bibliographically approved

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