Avoiding high opportunism is easy, achieving low opportunism is not: A QCA study on curbing opportunism in buyer-supplier relationships

Thomas Mellewigt, Glenn Hoetker, Martina Lütkewitte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Past research on how opportunism in buyer-supplier relationships can be mitigated remains incomplete and often contradictory. Applying recent advances in qualitative comparative analysis to a sample of 137 buyer-supplier relationships in the German automotive industry, we show that there are multiple equifinal pathways to high and low opportunism. In general, our study shows that it is easier to avoid high opportunism than to consistently achieve low opportunism. On this basis, we offer new insights into countering opportunism for researchers and managers. Achieving low opportunism requires a combination of governance mechanisms, which are generally not interchangeable. In particular, relational governance mechanisms in isolation seem to be more restricted than prior research has suggested but form a powerful synergistic combination with complex contracts. Although formal governance mechanisms lack enforceability, the coordination and monitoring that they provide are critical in both avoiding high opportunism and achieving low opportunism. Performance ambiguity is especially difficult to manage. Overall, our paper shows the power of configurational approaches and encourages the development of new theory that adopts a situational contingency perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1208-1228
Number of pages21
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2019
Externally publishedYes



  • Fuzzy set QCA
  • Governance mechanisms
  • Opportunism
  • Transaction hazards

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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