Advertisement

Opportunism is in the Eye of the Beholder: Antecedents of Subjective Opportunism Judgments

Abstract

Contractualist work in business ethics as well as in economic organization theory views opportunistic behaviors as problematic since they create economic harm and are often considered to violate ethical norms. Yet, much of the empirical literature on opportunism has adopted a rather simplistic definition of opportunistic behaviors as behaviors that violate formal and/or relational contracts and assumed that instances of opportunism can be unequivocally defined by simply referring to the content of contracts. The consequence of this assumption has been a disregard for factors other than the content of contracts that may influence whether exchange partners judge an unexpected behavior they face during exchange relationships as opportunistic or not. The present investigation explores the factors that shape exchange partners’ subjective opportunism judgments through two vignette-based laboratory experiments. Results from the first experiment, where subjects were asked to take the perspective of a harmed party, show that opportunism judgments are influenced by the type of the behavior, type of the causal account provided for the behavior, perceived type of the exchange, and personality traits of the actor making the judgment. The second experiment, in which subjects were asked to take the perspective of the transgressor, demonstrates the influence of perspective. In particular, victims are more likely to assess a given unexpected behavior as opportunistic than transgressors, and their judgments do not relate to the underlying factors in the same way as the victims’ judgments. I discuss implications in terms of the governance of interfirm exchange relationships.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 199

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.

Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Regardless, I measured the two remaining personality traits (i.e., extraversion and openness) using the dedicated 8 and 10 items, respectively, from the 44-item Big Five Inventory (John et al. 2008). When included in the analyses reported in the results section, these two variables came insignificant in both Experiment 1 and Experiment 2, and their inclusion did not change the results for the other variables.

  2. 2.

    To assess measure validity, I first conducted a Principle Component Analysis on these 6 items with data from the active and passive opportunism vignettes. Both Kaiser’s criterion and the scree plot converged on a single component. I then ran a confirmatory factor analysis to verify the single factor structure. The model fit statistics indicate that the single factor structure is a good fit for both the active (χ2(9) = 21.60, p = .01; NFI = 0.95; IFI = 0.97; CFI = 0.97; RMSEA = 0.07) and passive (χ2(9) = 16.70, p = .054; NFI = 0.97; IFI = 0.98; CFI = 0.98; RMSEA = 0.05) opportunism vignettes based on cutoff values provided in Byrne (2010).

  3. 3.

    Items are as follows: (1) It is a weak relationship—(reverse coded), (2) the relationship is characterized by a high level of trust, (3) the relationship makes it easy for you to anticipate Robert's actions, (4) the relationship has a short history—(reverse coded), (5) the relationship is characterized by shared norms of business conduct, (6) The parties have a very good understanding of each other's business interests. (Cronbach’s α = .88).

  4. 4.

    Items are as follows: (1) his personal desires shaped his choice—(reverse coded), (2) he could have chosen to act differently given the circumstances—(reverse coded), (3) uncontrollable external factors forced his hand, (4) his action was largely unavoidable, (5) he had very little choice considering what was happening outside of his firm. (Cronbach’s α = .78 and .84 for the active and passive opportunism vignettes, respectively).

  5. 5.

    I also ran a multilevel linear model (i.e., Mixed Model—Linear procedure in SPSS) Results were identical and are available from the author upon request.

  6. 6.

    One reviewer raised a concern about the external causal account manipulation vignette saying that the remark “to even stay afloat” in the vignette introduces harm to RJ distribution as a consideration, which can confound with the external/internal causal account distinction. In response, I collected data from 195 subjects with a modified version of the external causal account manipulation that did not have this remark (and no other changes in the survey). When I ran the same analysis with these new data, results for H2a remained the same as with the original data, but H2b did not reach statistical significance. To see if this result is due to the smaller sample size of the new data, I combined the new data with the original data (n = 195 + 304 = 499), treated the modified scenario as a fourth causal account type, and ran the MIXED > Linear procedure in SPSS which is capable of handling unequal cell sizes (Field, 2009; Tabachnick and Fidell 2013). Results of this analysis confirmed all the results in the original study, including H2b. Furthermore, pairwise comparisons of the four causal account conditions with a Bonferroni correction revealed that there is virtually no difference between the original and the modified external account vignettes. These results are available from the author upon request.

  7. 7.

    For the active opportunism vignette, Levene’s test indicated unequal variances (F = 5.403, p < .05) so the t value reported is the one that corrects for unequal variances.

References

  1. Achrol, R. S., & Gundlach, G. T. (1999). Legal and social safeguards against opportunism in exchange. Journal of Retailing,75(1), 107–124.

  2. Anderson, E. (1988). Transaction costs as determinants of opportunism in integrated and independent sales forces. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization,9(3), 247–264.

  3. Anderson, C. J. (2003). The psychology of doing nothing: Forms of decision avoidance result from reason and emotion. Psychological Bulletin,129(1), 139–167.

  4. Argyres, N., & Mayer, K. J. (2007). Contract design as a firm capability: An integration of learning and transaction cost perspectives. Academy of Management Review,32(4), 1060–1077.

  5. Bagley, C. E. (2008). Winning legally: The value of legal astuteness. Academy of Management Review,33(2), 378–390.

  6. Bercovitz, J., Jap, S. D., & Nickerson, J. A. (2006). The antecedents and performance implications of cooperative exchange norms. Organization Science,17(6), 724–740.

  7. Berry, C. M., Ones, D. S., & Sackett, P. R. (2007). Interpersonal deviance, organizational deviance, and their common correlates: A review and meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology,92(2), 410–424.

  8. Bower, G. H. (1991). Mood congruity of social judgments. In J. P. Forgas (Ed.), Emotion and social judgments (pp. 31–53). Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press.

  9. Bresin, K., & Robinson, M. D. (2015). You are what you see and choose: Agreeableness and situation selection. Journal of Personality,83(4), 452–463.

  10. Brown, J. R., Dev, C. S., & Lee, D. J. (2000). Managing marketing channel opportunism: The efficacy of alternative governance mechanisms. Journal of Marketing,64(2), 51–65.

  11. Byrne, B. M. (2010). Structural equation modeling with AMOS. New York, NY: Routlege.

  12. De Graaf, G. (2006). The autonomy of the contracting partners: An argument for heuristic contractarian business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics,68(3), 347–361.

  13. Delaney, H. D., & Maxwell, S. E. (1981). On using analysis of covariance in repeated measures designs. Multivariate Behavioral Research,16, 105–128.

  14. Donaldson, T., & Dunfee, T. W. (1994). Toward a unified conception of business ethics: Integrative social contracts theory. Academy of Management Review,19(2), 252–284.

  15. Dwyer, F. R., & Oh, S. (1987). Output sector munificence effects on the internal political-economy of marketing channels. Journal of Marketing Research,24(4), 347–358.

  16. Dwyer, F. R., Schurr, P. H., & Oh, S. (1987). Developing buyer-seller relationships. Journal of Marketing,51, 11–27.

  17. Field, A. (2013). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS statistics. London: Sage.

  18. Fiske, S. T., & Taylor, S. E. (2013). Social cognition: From brains to culture. London: Sage.

  19. Fiss, P. C., & Zajac, E. J. (2006). The symbolic management of strategic change: Sensegiving via framing and decoupling. Academy of Management Journal,49(6), 1173–1193.

  20. Fleeson, W., & Jayawickreme, E. (2015). Whole trait theory. Journal of Research in Personality,56, 82–92.

  21. Forgas, J. P. (1995). Mood and judgment: The affect infusion model (AIM). Psychological Bulletin,117(1), 39–66.

  22. Foss, N. J., & Weber, L. (2016). Moving opportunism to the back seat: Bounded rationality, costly conflict, and hierarchical forms. Academy of Management Review,41(1), 61–79.

  23. Ghoshal, S., & Moran, P. (1996). Bad for practice: A critique of the transaction cost theory. Academy of Management Review,21(1), 13–47.

  24. Graziano, W. G., Jensen-Campbell, L. A., & Hair, E. C. (1996). Perceiving interpersonal conflict and reacting to it: The case for agreeableness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,70(4), 820–835.

  25. Graziano, W. G., & Tobin, R. M. (2009). Agreeableness. In M. R. Leary & R. H. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of individual differences in social behavior (pp. 46–61). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

  26. Gulati, R., & Nickerson, J. A. (2008). Interorganizational trust, governance choice, and exchange performance. Organization Science,19(5), 688–708.

  27. Gundlach, G. T., Achrol, R. S., & Mentzer, J. T. (1995). The structure of commitment in exchange. Journal of Marketing,59(1), 78–92.

  28. Hambrick, D. C., & Mason, P. A. (1984). Upper echelons—The organization as a reflection of its top managers. Academy of Management Review,9(2), 193–206.

  29. Harmon, D. J., Kim, P. H., & Mayer, K. J. (2015). Breaking the letter vs. spirit of the law: How the interpretation of contract violations affects trust and the management of relationships. Strategic Management Journal,36(4), 497–517.

  30. Hart, O. (1995). Firms, contracts, and financial structure. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  31. Hawkins, T. G., Wittmann, C. M., & Beyerlein, M. M. (2008). Antecedents and consequences of opportunism in buyer-supplier relations: Research synthesis and new frontiers. Industrial Marketing Management,37(8), 895–909.

  32. Heider, F. (1958). The psychology of interpersonal relations. New York: Wiley.

  33. Heugens, P. P., Kaptein, M., & van Oosterhout, J. H. (2004). Ties that grind? Corroborating a typology of social contracting problems. Journal of Business Ethics,49(3), 235–252.

  34. Heugens, P. P., van Oosterhout, J. H., & Kaptein, M. (2006). Foundations and applications for contractualist business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics,68(3), 211–228.

  35. Ho, V. T., Weingart, L. R., & Rousseau, D. M. (2004). Responses to broken promises: Does personality matter? Journal of Vocational Behavior,65(2), 276–293.

  36. Hodgson, G. M. (2004). Opportunism is not the only reason why firms exist: Why an explanatory emphasis on opportunism may mislead management strategy. Industrial and Corporate Change,13(2), 401–418.

  37. Holmlund-Rytkönen, M., & Strandvik, T. (2005). Stress in business relationships. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing,20, 12–22.

  38. Jap, S. D., & Anderson, E. (2003). Safeguarding interorganizational performance and continuity under ex post opportunism. Management Science,49(12), 1684–1701.

  39. Jensen, J. M., Opland, R. A., & Ryan, A. M. (2010). Psychological contracts and counterproductive work behaviors: Employee responses to transactional and relational breach. Journal of Business and Psychology,25(4), 555–568.

  40. John, G. (1984). An empirical-investigation of some antecedents of opportunism in a marketing channel. Journal of Marketing Research,21(3), 278–289.

  41. John, O. P., Naumann, L. P., & Soto, C. J. (2008). Paradigm shift to the integrative Big Five trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and conceptual issues. In O. P. John, R. W. Robins, & L. A. Pervin (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (3rd ed., pp. 114–158). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

  42. Jones, T. M. (1995). Instrumental stakeholder theory: A synthesis of ethics and economics. Academy of Management Review,20(2), 404–437.

  43. Kahneman, D., & Miller, D. T. (1986). Norm theory—Comparing reality to its alternatives. Psychological Review,93(2), 136–153.

  44. Kammrath, L. K., & Scholer, A. A. (2011). The Pollyanna myth: How highly agreeable people judge positive and negative relational acts. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,37(9), 1172–1184.

  45. Kelley, H. H. (1973). The process of causal attribution. American Psychologist,28(2), 107–128.

  46. Kim, P. H., Dirks, K. T., Cooper, C. D., & Ferrin, D. L. (2006). When more blame is better than less: The implications of internal vs. external attributions for the repair of trust after a competence- vs. integrity-based trust violation. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes,99, 49–65.

  47. Krishnan, R., Martin, X., & Noorderhaven, N. G. (2006). When does trust matter to alliance performance? Academy of Management Journal,49(5), 894–917.

  48. Lee, K., & Ashton, M. C. (2012). Getting mad and getting even: Agreeableness and honesty-humility as predictors of revenge intentions. Personality and Individual Differences,52(5), 596–600.

  49. Liu, Y., Liu, T., & Li, Y. (2014). How to inhibit a partner’s strong and weak forms of opportunism: Impacts of network embeddedness and bilateral TSIs. Industrial Marketing Management,43(2), 280–292.

  50. Lumineau, F., & Quelin, B. V. (2012). An empirical investigation of interorganizational opportunism and contracting mechanisms. Strategic Organization,10(1), 55–84.

  51. Luo, Y. (2006). Opportunism in inter-firm exchanges in emerging markets. Management and Organization Review,2(1), 121–147.

  52. Macaulay, S. (1963). Non-contractual relations in business—A preliminary-study. American Sociological Review,28(1), 55–67.

  53. Macneil, I. R. (1980). The new social contract. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

  54. Maltby, J., Wood, A. M., Day, L., Kon, T. W., Colley, A., & Linley, P. A. (2008). Personality predictors of levels of forgiveness two and a half years after the transgression. Journal of Research in Personality,42(4), 1088–1094.

  55. Mayer, K. J., & Argyres, N. S. (2004). Learning to contract: Evidence from the personal computer industry. Organization Science,15(4), 394–410.

  56. Mayer, R. C., Davis, J. H., & Schoorman, F. D. (1995). An integrative model of organizational trust. Academy of Management Review,20(3), 709–734.

  57. McCullough, M. E., Bellah, C. G., Kilpatrick, S. D., & Johnson, J. L. (2001). Vengefulness: Relationships with forgiveness, rumination, well-being, and the Big Five. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,27(5), 601–610.

  58. McCullough, M. E., & Hoyt, W. T. (2002). Transgression-related motivational dispositions: Personality substrates of forgiveness and their links to the Big Five. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,28(11), 1556–1573.

  59. Mudrack, P. E., & Mason, E. S. (2013). Ethical judgments: What do we know, where do we go? Journal of Business Ethics,115(3), 575–597.

  60. Nabi, R. L. (1999). A cognitive-functional model for the effects of discrete negative emotions on information processing, attitude change, and recall. Communication Theory,9(3), 292–320.

  61. Ness, H. (2009). Governance, negotiations, and alliance dynamics: Explaining the evolution of relational practice. Journal of Management Studies,46(3), 451–480.

  62. Noguchi, K., Gohm, C. L., & Dalsky, D. J. (2006). Cognitive tendencies of focusing on positive and negative information. Journal of Research in Personality,40(6), 891–910.

  63. Orvis, K. A., Dudley, N. M., & Cortina, J. M. (2008). Conscientiousness and reactions to psychological contract breach: A longitudinal field study. Journal of Applied Psychology,93(5), 1183–1193.

  64. Parkhe, A. (1993). Strategic alliance structuring—A game-theoretic and transaction cost examination of interfirm cooperation. Academy of Management Journal,36(4), 794–829.

  65. Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (pp. 123–205). New York, NY: Academic Press.

  66. Petty, R. E., Gleicher, F., & Baker, S. (1991). Multiple roles for affect in persuasion. In J. P. Forgas (Ed.), Emotion and social judgments (pp. 181–200). Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press.

  67. Poppo, L., & Zenger, T. (2002). Do formal contracts and relational governance function as substitutes or complements? Strategic Management Journal,23(8), 707–725.

  68. Poppo, L., Zhou, K. Z., & Ryu, S. M. (2008). Alternative origins to interorganizational trust: An interdependence perspective on the shadow of the past and the shadow of the future. Organization Science,19(1), 39–55.

  69. Provan, K. G., & Skinner, S. J. (1989). Interorganizational dependence and control as predictors of opportunism in dealer-supplier relations. Academy of Management Journal,32(1), 202–212.

  70. Puranam, P., & Vanneste, B. S. (2009). Trust and governance: Untangling a tangled web. Academy of Management Review,34(1), 11–31.

  71. Raja, U., Johns, G., & Ntalianis, F. (2004). The impact of personality on psychological contracts. Academy of Management Journal,47(3), 350–367.

  72. Reidenbach, R. E., & Robin, D. P. (1990). Toward the development of a multidimensional scale for improving evaluations of business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics,9(8), 639–653.

  73. Reuer, J. J., & Arino, A. (2007). Strategic alliance contracts: Dimensions and determinants of contract complexity. Strategic Management Journal,28(3), 313–330.

  74. Reuer, J. J., Tong, T. W., Tyler, B. B., & Arino, A. (2013). Executive preferences for governance modes and exchange partners: An information economics perspective. Strategic Management Journal,34(9), 1104–1122.

  75. Roberts, B. W., Lejuez, C., Krueger, R. F., Richards, J. M., & Hill, P. L. (2012). What is conscientiousness and how can it be assessed? Developmental Psychology,50(5), 1315–1330.

  76. Robinson, S. L. (1996). Trust and breach of the psychological contract. Administrative Science Quarterly,41(4), 574–599.

  77. Rokkan, A. I., Heide, J. B., & Wathne, K. H. (2003). Specific investments in marketing relationships: Expropriation and bonding effects. Journal of Marketing Research,40(2), 210–224.

  78. Ross, L. (1977). The intuitive psychologist and his shortcomings. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 10, pp. 173–220). New York: Academic.

  79. Sackett, P. R., & Walmsley, P. T. (2014). Which personality attributes are most important in the workplace? Perspectives on Psychological Science,9(5), 538–551.

  80. Sakalaki, M., & Fousiani, K. (2012). About some personality misfortunes of opportunists: The negative correlation of economic defection with autonomy, agreeableness, and well-being. Journal of Applied Social Psychology,42(2), 471–487.

  81. Schwarz, N. (2012). Feelings-as-information theory. In P. A. M. Van Lange, A. Kruglanski, & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of theories of social psychology (pp. 289–308). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

  82. Scott, M. B., & Lyman, S. M. (1968). Accounts. American Sociological Review,33(1), 46–62.

  83. Seggie, S. H., Griffith, D. A., & Jap, S. D. (2013). Passive and active opportunism in interorganizational exchange. Journal of Marketing,77(November), 73–90.

  84. Shaver, K. G. (1985). The attribution of blame: Causality, responsibility, and blameworthiness. New York: Springer.

  85. Shih, C. T., & Chuang, C. H. (2013). Individual differences, psychological contract breach, and organizational citizenship behavior: A moderated mediation study. Asia Pacific Journal of Management,30(1), 191–210.

  86. Sitkin, S. B., & Bies, R. J. (1993). Social accounts in conflict situations—Using explanations to manage conflict. Human Relations,46(3), 349–370.

  87. Sparks, J. R., & Pan, Y. (2010). Ethical judgments in business ethics research: Definition, and research agenda. Journal of Business Ethics,91(3), 405–418.

  88. Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2013). Using multivariate statistics (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

  89. Tobin, R. M., Graziano, W. G., Vanman, E. J., & Tassinary, L. G. (2000). Personality, emotional experience, and efforts to control emotions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,79(4), 656–669.

  90. Van Oosterhout, J. H., Heugens, P. P., & Kaptein, M. (2006). The internal morality of contracting: Advancing the contractualist endeavor in business ethics. Academy of Management Review,31(3), 521–539.

  91. Vlaar, P. W. L., Van den Bosch, F. A. J., & Volberda, H. W. (2006). Coping with problems of understanding in interorganizational relationships: Using formalization as a means to make sense. Organization Studies,27(11), 1617–1638.

  92. Wang, Q., Li, J. J., Ross, W. T., Jr., & Craighead, C. W. (2013). The interplay of drivers and deterrents of opportunism in buyer–supplier relationships. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science,41(1), 111–131.

  93. Wang, X. H., & Yang, Z. L. (2013). Inter-firm opportunism: A meta-analytic review and assessment of its antecedents and effect on performance. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing,28(1–2), 137–146.

  94. Wathne, K. H., & Heide, J. B. (2000). Opportunism in interfirm relationships: Forms, outcomes, and solutions. Journal of Marketing,64(4), 36–51.

  95. Weber, L., & Mayer, K. J. (2011). Designing effective contracts: Exploring the influence of framing and expectations. Academy of Management Review,36(1), 53–75.

  96. Weber, L., & Mayer, K. (2014). Transaction cost economics and the cognitive perspective: Investigating the sources and governance of interpretive uncertainty. Academy of Management Review,39(3), 344–363.

  97. Widiger, T. A. (2009). Neuroticism. In M. R. Leary & R. H. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of individual differences in social behavior (pp. 129–146). New York: Guilford.

  98. Williamson, O. E. (1975). Markets and hierarchies. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

  99. Williamson, O. E. (1991). Comparative economic-organization—The analysis of discrete structural alternatives. Administrative Science Quarterly,36(2), 269–296.

  100. Williamson, O. E. (1999). Strategy research: Governance and competence perspectives. Strategic Management Journal,20(12), 1087–1108.

  101. Zardkoohi, A., Harrison, J. S., & Josefy, M. A. (2017). Conflict and confluence: The multidimensionality of opportunism in principal–agent relationships. Journal of Business Ethics, 146, 405–417.

  102. Zechmeister, J. S., & Romero, C. (2002). Victim and offender accounts of interpersonal conflict: Autobiographical narratives of forgiveness and unforgiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,82(4), 675–686.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Andaç T. Arıkan.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

Andaç T. Arıkan declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Appendix

Appendix

Appendix A: Vignette Description of the Deal Characteristics and Terms

You are the owner of “A&T Supply,” a small office supply manufacturing company. You distribute your products both directly yourself and through independent distributors. One day you get a phone call from Robert Jennings, the owner of “RJ Distribution” which is one of your independent distributors.

Perceived Discrete Exchange Manipulation

Robert is one of your newest business partners as you have been working with RJ Distribution for only a few months. You have not yet formed an opinion about how you like working with Robert because your short partnership involved only two transactions, and you have not yet had the chance to figure out his working style, or to establish a set of shared norms of business conduct with him. The lack of an established relationship between the two of you makes it hard for you to anticipate his actions during your transactions since you do not yet have a full understanding of Robert’s business interests, and mutual trust has not yet developed between the two of you. So far though, your dealings with RJ Distribution have proceeded smoothly.

Perceived Relational Exchange Manipulation

Robert is one of your oldest business partners as you have been working with RJ Distribution for over 10 years. You like working with Robert because over the course of your long partnership, you have engaged in over a hundred transactions, and through those transactions, learned each other’s working styles and established a set of shared norms of business conduct. The strong relationship you have developed is characterized by mutual trust, respect for each other’s business interests, and good faith, making it easy for you to anticipate his actions during your transactions. Owing to this well-established relationship, your dealings with RJ Distribution have always proceeded smoothly.

On the phone, Robert proposes a deal where you will lower your office supply prices 10% for RJ Distribution and hold it constant for your other distributors as well as direct customers. Robert’s intention is to pass the 10% saving on to his customers by lowering his price in an effort to gain strength against his main competitor. When Robert lowers his price in this manner, you will lose money for the first few months because you will lose some of your direct customers to Robert’s lower prices. In addition, your revenues from RJ Distribution will drop. In return, Robert proposes to (1) start buying exclusively from you and (2) invest in a large-scale market penetration effort to earn more customers. As a result, in the long run, you will save on costs associated with acquiring and servicing new customers on your own, and your overall sales volume will grow significantly due to considerably larger orders from RJ Distribution. You evaluate the risks and benefits of the deal carefully and estimate that if all goes as planned, it will bring in about 500,000 dollars in additional annual revenues for A&T Supply.

Finding this figure favorable, you decide to take the deal. Subsequently, you make a verbal agreement with Robert on the above conditions and lower your price 10% for RJ Distribution while holding it constant for your other distributors and direct customers. You perceive a mutual understanding between you and Robert that the deal will be in effect long enough to allow both parties’ benefits to materialize.

Appendix B: Vignette Description of Post-Deal Actions by the Partner

Active Opportunism Vignette

A few months after making the deal, Robert informs you that he has been searching for a cheaper supplier and indeed has found one that offers equivalent products at a price 5% lower than your price. He requests that you match this new supplier’s price and informs you that if you do not, he will switch his orders to the new supplier.

You ask him why he has been actively searching for another supplier when he was supposed to be buying exclusively from you according to your deal. No causal account manipulation: He refrains from giving you a concrete reason. Internal causal account manipulation: His answer suggests that his personal desires shaped his choice of action. In particular, he says that shortly after you made your deal, he came across a beautiful house that he wants to buy. To be able to quickly raise enough money to buy the house, he decided to institute a company-wide cost-cutting initiative in order to increase profits, and the purchasing budget was one of the best candidates to be cut as his supply expenses were already too high. External causal account manipulation: His answer suggests that uncontrollable external factors forced his hand. In particular, he says that shortly after you made your deal, the economy started worsening and three of his relatively larger clients went bankrupt causing RJ Distribution’s revenues to decrease significantly. In addition, his main competitor, the one he was trying to gain strength against through your deal, retaliated unexpectedly to his lowering his prices by lowering its prices even further which caused RJ Distribution to lose a significant amount of market share. Under these circumstances, Robert was forced to lower his costs (including supply costs) to even stay afloat.

After analyzing your numbers, you tell him that you are unable to match the new supplier’s price due to already razor-thin margins. Subsequently, Robert switches a significant portion of RJ Distribution’s orders to the new supplier. You estimate that you lost about 300,000 dollars due to the loss of a portion of your direct customers to RJ Distribution’s lower prices, and lower revenues from RJ Distribution.

Passive Opportunism Vignette

Despite your expectation of a significant increase in the volume of orders from RJ Distribution, the volume of orders increases only marginally after a considerable amount of time. After some investigating, you find out that Robert has not invested in any market penetration efforts.

You call him and ask him why he has not increased his marketing spending when he was supposed to invest toward increased market penetration according to your deal. Causal account manipulations are the same as in the active opportunism vignette.

You estimate that overall, you lost about 300,000 dollars due to the loss of a portion of your direct customers to RJ Distribution’s lower prices, and lower revenues from RJ Distribution.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Arıkan, A.T. Opportunism is in the Eye of the Beholder: Antecedents of Subjective Opportunism Judgments. J Bus Ethics 161, 573–589 (2020) doi:10.1007/s10551-018-3873-7

Download citation

Keywords

  • Opportunism
  • Judgment
  • Exchange
  • Discrete
  • Relational
  • Active opportunism
  • Passive opportunism
  • Trust
  • Causal account
  • Attribution
  • Big 5
  • Victim
  • Transgressor