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Understanding the strain of inter-personal relationships on employees

Julie Robson (Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, UK)
Yasmin Sekhon (University of Southampton, Southampton, UK)
Haomin Simon Ning (Henan Lemon Innovation Incubation Co., Ltd., Zhengzhou, China)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 3 October 2016




Using role theory, this paper aims to focus on business-to-business inter-personal relationships and the strain such relationships can have on the individual. How is this strain expressed, and what are the implications for the future of these relationships?


Thirty in-depth interviews were conducted with experienced account managers. The relationship under scrutiny was the inter-personal relationship that exists between the account managers of UK insurance brokers and their business customers.


The study found account managers use a range of resources to support their inter-personal relationships. Where there was a mismatch in the perception of relationship closeness, this did result in role strain for the account managers. In particular, resentment was expressed over time being taken from their working day and their personal life and the impact this had on their work–life balance.

Practical implications

Identification and an understanding of role strain in inter-personal relationships enables firms to provide support, guidance and training to their employees on how best to manage such relationships. Identifying when and in what ways strain can occur enables firms to identify and take steps to avoid relationship disintegration.


This is one of a few papers to provide empirical evidence of the role strain in inter-personal relationship from an individual employee’s perspective. Identification of the personal resources used in inter-personal relationships may prove useful for other researchers working in this under-researched area. In addition, the in-depth interviews highlighted the often overlooked subtleties within relationships and issues that can trigger relationship strain.



Robson, J., Sekhon, Y. and Ning, H.S. (2016), "Understanding the strain of inter-personal relationships on employees", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 31 No. 8, pp. 995-1003.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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