In my previous blog I highlighted the role played by emotions during the evolution of an alliance. The human element is always present in alliances just as is the recognition that alliances may at times exceed expectations and on other occasions may fail to meet them. An unfavorable discrepancy is where the goals of the alliance fall short of the expectations of the alliance partners. Whenever an unfavorable discrepancy emerges between the expectations of the alliance partners and the alliance outcomes and the discrepancy cannot be attributable to external factors, the alliance partners must ask some difficult questions. Is the partner at fault or is it our error? If the partner is responsible then is it intentional or unintentional? Does it represent negligence or is it indicative of opportunistic intent? Is poor communication/coordination to blame or is it a flawed strategy where the errors are now only being recognized? If it is our error then how did it come to pass?

It is inevitable that when an alliance fails to fulfill its expectations the alliance managers will feel disappointed and dejected. But these are not the only emotions that managers may experience. Anger will arise if the partner is held responsible for the negative outcomes and the intensity of this emotion may be even greater if the partner is deemed to have acted opportunistically. An opportunistic act is one where the partner does not fulfill the obligations that it is supposed to and/or acts in ways that are expressly forbidden. It may also call into question the real intent of the alliance partner. How committed are they to the alliance? This might then potentially generate anxiety because the perception is that the partner is not as committed as we are.

Emotions are an inevitable feature of all exchange relationships and business alliances are no different in this regard. The strategic choice for managers when emotions arise is to learn to leverage them in a manner that will strengthen the alliance rather than weaken it. I will now discuss ways in which emotions can be leveraged to strengthen rather than weaken the alliance.

  • Acknowledge emotions rather than ignoring them

Emotions create discomfort for those who experience them. There may be the added concern that expression of emotions may worsen the relationship among alliance partners. A human tendency is to deny or acknowledge the existence of negative emotions. I believe that this is a mistake. Although emotions can make us uncomfortable, they are valuable in that they are indicative of a potential problem that needs to be addressed. The expression of anger or anxiety towards one’s partner may not always be easy but at the same time it may create the context for problem resolution. If problems are not dealt with in a timely way the very survival of the alliance may be at stake.

  • Allow emotions to help you achieve your goals

There may be legitimate reasons for alliance managers to experience anger and/or anxiety. What is most critical is the manner in which managers express these emotions with one’s alliance partner. There may be good reasons for an alliance manager to feel aggrieved with one’s counterpart. What is important is that the emotional response be proportional to the perceived infraction. If the infraction is severe and intentional it may of course spell the end of the alliance. It may be a mistake if the emotional response is disproportionate to the infraction. This will worsen the relationship and may detract from improving alliance performance. Furthermore, you should also be careful if your alliance partner is more powerful than you. Under these circumstances it is perhaps advisable to refrain from any expression of negative emotions.

  • Recognize that different emotions are reflective of different kinds of problems in the alliance

Managers might typically experience disappointment, anger, and/or anxiety. Disappointment indicates that the alliance performance is below expectations. An alliance may perform poorly even if the partners are committed to the alliance. Anger, on the other hand, arises when you perceive that your partner is at fault for not doing something or doing something that should not have been done. Anxiety is reflective of a state of uncertainty about the future. Perhaps you remain uncertain about the future of the alliance. Different problems demand different types of solutions. Disappointment invites you to reevaluate the goals and/or the strategy of the alliance. Anger compels you to interact with the partner to discuss your concerns about their behavior. Anxiety invites the need for reassurance and you may need to more fully engage with the partner about the longer- term strategic direction.

Emotions are an inevitable aspect of all business relationships and alliances are no exception to this rule. In the blog I have highlighted how emotions can be leveraged in a way to maximize alliance performance. For further information on this feel free to contact Dr. Kumar at