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Social norms in the salesforce: justice and relationalism

Ilgım Dara Benoit (Department of Marketing, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, USA)
Thomas Brashear Alejandro (Department of Marketing, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA and Fundacao Getulio Vargas, Escola de Administracao de Empresas de São Paulo (FGV-EAESP), São Paulo, Brazil)
Jeffrey Foreman (Department of Marketing, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, USA)
Christian Chelariu (Department of Marketing, Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Shawn Bergman (Department of Psychology, Appalachian State University, Center for Analytics Research and Education (CARE), Boone, North Carolina, USA)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 3 January 2019

Issue publication date: 1 March 2019




This paper aims to examine the role of social norms of justice and relationalism in salesperson–sales manager relationships, and their role in developing salesforce commitment and turnover.


This study uses structural equation modeling to analyze survey data from 402 business-to-business salespeople.


As discrete foundational norms, distributive, procedural and interactional (interpersonal, informational) justice develop higher-order norms of relationalism, which then reflect on increased commitment and reduced turnover intention of the salesforce. Among the justice norms, interpersonal justice has the strongest impact on relationalism.

Research limitations/implications

The paper shows how each justice norm has a distinct impact in shaping relational norms, and that interpersonal justice has the highest impact. In addition, with enhanced relationalism salespeople become more committed and have lower turnover intentions. Future research could use a longitudinal study, present manager’s side in the model and measure and compare the impact of supervisor- versus organization-focused justice.

Practical implications

To enhance relationalism, and thus in turn increase commitment and decrease turnover intention of salesforce, sales managers should pay attention to the salespeople’s perceptions of justice norms (distributive, procedural, informational and interpersonal justice), especially interpersonal justice, as it has the highest impact on relationalism. The specific ways to enhance justice perceptions are discussed.


This paper is the first to show how each justice norm is unique in its importance to shape the relationship between sales manager and salespeople in a way that increases the quality of relational norms, governing the relational process into a highly committed one. It also shows that among the four justice norms, interactional justice has the highest impact on relationalism. In addition, this is the first study to show that relationalism decreases turnover intention of salespeople.



Benoit, I.D., Brashear Alejandro, T., Foreman, J., Chelariu, C. and Bergman, S. (2019), "Social norms in the salesforce: justice and relationalism", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 34 No. 1, pp. 49-61.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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