Relationship conflict in construction management and how it affects performance and profit
Vaux, James S.
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The construction industry is a large and complex industry involving multiple stakeholders with divergent interests who often experience conflict that is detrimental to all involved. Interpersonal conflict know as relationship conflict produces outcomes that are detrimental to performance as seen in the project schedule, morale of the management team, and the budget. The construction industry recognizes there is a problem with relationship conflict but little research has examined the topic to understand what construction management professionals experience and the effects on performance. This qualitative grounded theory research examined the effects of relationship conflict on performance and budget in construction management, through 25 interviews with construction management professionals, conducted in 18 northwest construction firms. The professionals interviewed included, three superintendents, 11 project managers, three senior project managers, and eight project executives. The goal of the study was to understand from the construction industry's perspective what the antecedents and outcomes of relationship conflict were for the firms and individuals involved. Key antecedents that produced relationship conflict were lack of communication, "old school" attitude, and lump sum contracts. The primary players who produced relationship conflict were the owner and owner's representative, subcontractors, and superintendents. Resulting from relationship conflict, the major detrimental outcomes were schedule delays and budget increases, while factors that mitigated relationship conflict were, good communication and trust. Performance was also negatively affected on a personal level as management professionals experienced the effects of relationship conflict through mental, emotional, physical, and family-life disruption.