Supplier Role Conflict: An Investigation of Its Relational Implications and Impact on Supplier Accommodation

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Existing research on supply chain relationships suggests that one of the underlying tensions between supply chain partners is that of opposing perspectives and goals in the customer−supplier relationship. In today's business world with requirements in constant flux, suppliers are often asked to accommodate “special” requests made by their customers, not part of the contractual agreement. Suppliers frequently fill requests to protect the relationship with the customer, even if they fall outside of what they consider their role as a supplier. Issues of supplier role conflict emerge when customers and suppliers have different views of what the supplier's role should entail. There is little research examining the potential for supplier role conflict in supply chains. Specifically, this research draws on literature from multiple disciplines to consider supplier role conflict that may stem from accommodation and the impact of this role conflict and supplier accommodation on the supply chain relationship and future accommodation behavior. Hypotheses are tested using two scenario‐based experiments. Results suggest that supplier adaptation and flexibility both have positive relational effects. If suppliers perceive accommodation requests as outside of their contracted role, supplier role conflict can have detrimental effects on the supplier's relationship perceptions and their willingness for future accommodation.