Beställar - entreprenörrelationer i byggandet: samarbete, konflikt och social påverkan
Doctoral thesis, 1997
The division of responsibility in the client-contractor relationship and the formal contractual arrangements has long been a question of considerable debate and concern, in the Swedish construction industry as well as in construction management research.
Due to uncertainty and incomplete contractual documents, many negotia-tions continue between the parties during the contract period. These negotia-tions are often performed by the client's and contractor's repre-sentatives on the construction site. The aim of this thesis is to gain an increased understanding of informal aspects of the client-contractor relation-ship and of the role of the client during the contract period. The discussion is based on two case studies of the interaction between the parties during the production phase of building projects. The focus is on the individuals who participate in the decision making, and an ethnographic, interpretative approach is used. Theories of human decision making and social influence form the basis of the analysis.
As there is a great need for joint problem-solving during the execution of the work, it is important to the parties that the relations between the interacting individuals are kept co-operative, and that perceptions of unfair-ness are avoided. A main finding is that the contractor has a naturally strong informal position. In part, this is due to intuitive norms of justice, according to which it is considered unfair that a seller makes a loss. Also, the contractor's organization involves many people, while the client's representative often works autonomously in close contact with the contractors. This can explain why contractors often prefer informal decision making and communication.
Clients tend to improve their position by organizing the interaction so that the contractors' informal power is neutralized.
Conceptions formed on the industry level are important determinants of informal power relations. This is because perceptions of fairness are social constructs, and are influenced by explanations as well as by expectations. Publicly expressed conflicts and antagonistic attitudes should, therefore, be viewed as ways of promoting interests without harming relations on the project level. An improved understanding of informal aspects of client-contractor relationships, thus, suggests novel explanations of general cultural aspects of the construction industry.