Illusions of freedom: Practice and contradictions in the work of construction site managers
Doctoral thesis, 2021
This thesis adopts a critical stance to the assumption that the everyday work practices of site managers can be solely explained as causally derived from macro-level characteristics of the construction industry. Instead, a need to take into account the situated lived realities of these managers is called for. The overall purpose of this thesis is to explore the everyday work of construction site managers, focusing in particular on how they experience and cope with their work. An exploratory and interpretative research approach combined with a practice lens is used. The thesis draws on rich empirical data (interviews, observations, workshops) from an in-depth case study of a large construction company (ConstructED), as well as interview data from several other large and mid-sized construction companies in Sweden.
The findings show that site managers tend to cope with their demanding work situation by overworking. However, while overwork often has been portrayed as an outcome of pressures derived from industry conditions, this thesis shows that it is a much more complex, multifaceted and meaningful behavior. It can be understood as a symbolic manifestation of how site managers reactively cope with work and proactively mobilizing this hard-working image of themselves to expand their autonomy. Moreover, it is shown that the managers’ proclivity to expand their autonomy can trigger unintended dynamics through which they paradoxically entrap themselves in overwork. The findings highlight the contour of an unobtrusive control mechanism that might serve to discipline the site managers indirectly. The thesis goes beyond the image of site managers’ work as merely a reactive coping response, and highlights a complex and paradoxical interplay between micro-level practices and macro-level conditions that has hitherto been under-researched. By exploring this interplay, the thesis contributes with novel insights into, not only the everyday work of site managers, but also the practical underpinnings of some of the prominent characteristics of the construction industry.
construction site managers
Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Construction Management
Working in a loosely coupled system: exploring practices and implications of coupling work on construction sites
Construction Management and Economics,; Vol. 39(2021)p. 212-226
Standardizing the free and independent professional: The case of construction site managers in Sweden
Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management,; Vol. 27(2020)p. 1337-1355
Sandberg, R. Autonomy paradox and entrapment in the construction industry: the case of overworked site managers. (Manuscript submitted to a scientific journal, undergoing revisions based on reviewers’ comments).
Sandberg, R., Räisänen, C., Löwstedt, M. and Raiden, A. (2018). Liberating the semantics: Embodied work(man)ship in construction. In Sage, D. and Vitry, C., eds. (2018) Societies under construction: Geographies, Sociologies and Histories of Building. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 115-149
Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 5007
Chalmers University of Technology
Zoom (meeting password: 299549)
Opponent: Professor Stefan Tengblad, Center for Global Human Resource Management