Conflict Resolution in Nigerian Construction Industry


Conflict Resolution in Nigerian Construction Industry: Project Managers’ View



Background of the study

Today‘s construction projects become more complex in nature. The complex, relational and lengthy process of designing and building makes construction a process in which disputes are virtually ensured. Furthermore, the involvement of multidisciplinary in the construction project also leads to conflicts among the parties. It seems that conflict and disputes are inevitable to the construction industry especially when most of construction projects are facing with so many uncertainties.

A study by Kumara swamy & Yoges waran provided a good reference of the common sources of construction disputes that are largely related to contractual matters, including variation, extension of time, payment, quality of technical specification, availability of information, administration and management, unrealistic client expectations and determination. In other research by (Kathleen, 2003a) highlighted conflicts may develop as a result of limited resources such as not enough time, money, labour, materials and/or equipment. Smith describes conflict and disputes as an endemic problem in the construction industry. Conflict may difficulties communications between individuals, breaks personal and professional relationships and reduces effectiveness.

Conflict produces tension and distracts team members from performing the task. According to Cheung & Suen, if dispute are not properly managed, they may cause project delays, undetermined team spirit, increase project costs and above all, damage continuing business relationships. Thus it is not surprising that many construction stakeholders still overwhelmingly view conflict as negative and something to be avoided or resolved as soon as possible. However, there are many authors have pointed out conflict is a phenomenon that may give rise not only to functional but also dysfunctional effects on individuals, groups and organizations. As today‘s claims and disputes keep increasing, the construction industry struggles to find ways to equitably and economically to resolve them. According to Shin, managing disputes should become a part of normal project management during project operation because disputes in construction projects are common place and the resolution need to occur immediately on the project site.

Brown et al highlighted that conflict is doubt or questioning, opposition, incompatible behavior, controversy or antagonistic interaction and disputes is one of the range of events considered as conflict. According to Kumaraswamy & Yogeswaran, a dispute can be said to exist when a claim or assertion made is made by one party is rejected by the other party and that rejection is not accepted.‖ This shows that disputes is more likely occur when the conflicting parties shows an action or arguments to a controversy. Referring to Vorster, a dispute is defined as an argument about an issue concerning project operations, usually resulting from a debate over differences in two or more parties‘ understanding of situation.This statement is supported by another statement by Deutsch that defines conflict as incompatible activities; conflict occurs when the behavior of one person is interfering or obstructing the actions of another. There are perhaps as many definitions of conflict as there are occasions for its occurrence. According to Thomas there are three themes among the definitions of conflict. The first is that whether conflict exists or not is a perception issue. The perceived difference may not be real but conversely if the difference is real but not perceived there is no conflict. The second common theme is that there is interdependence among parties (i.e. each has the potential to interfere with the other). Third, there are issues of blockage, opposition, and scarcity. Resources, for example, money, power and prestige, are limited. Their scarcity creates blocking behavior. When one party blocks the means to a goal or interest of another, a state of conflict exists. These numerous definitions show that scholars are looking at conflict from different angles but are there a difference between conflict and dispute and if so, should we concern ourselves with the difference? Some authors do not differentiate as Moore manages to mix the two terms in the first paragraph of his Chapter 1. However, most of previous research defines conflict and disputes shares the same definition that is generally involves disagreement regarding interests or ideas and that was adopted for this research. The important issue is both of the terms has historically been viewed as undesirable, something to be avoided.

Statement of the problem

No matter how strategic you are in attempting to resolve a difference of opinion with another person, as long as it is framed as a conflict and viewed by at least one of you in terms of one person being “right” and the other as “wrong” no real progress is made in the relationship. A battle will be won, but a war will rage on. The presence of right/wrong dynamics in a relationship indicates a power struggle and not the process of co-creation by two equally respected partners. Whether deciding what to have for dinner, when and how to express shared intimacy or any other decision that affects both partners, ultimately it is the decision making process rather than the decision itself that speaks volumes about the quality of consciousness being expressed in the relationship. 

Significance of the study

Conflict occurs inevitably, but preparing to deal with it in a rational, positive manner can save you from further disruption. Conflict occurs when people have different opinions, lack respect for each other or simply misunderstand intentions. Resolving conflict involves communicating effectively and reaching a compromise. Ignoring dissension eventually takes its toll both mentally and physically. Positive conflict resolution in a team results in better long-term team dynamics.

This paper significantly overview the conflict resolution in construction industry which is hoped to give clearer scenario to all project teams. Conflict would arise due to behavioral problems such as poor communication among project team, multicultural team problem and reluctant to check for construct ability, clarity and completeness of project. Besides that, conflict also arises due to the factors of contractual problem which includes delay interim payment from client, client fails to respond in timely manner, application of extension of time and improper project schedules. Other than that, contractor’s quality of work, error of pricing or costing, late instructions from architect or engineer also considered as the factors of conflict which is due to technical problems. This paper was hoped to be a useful reference to the project team in managing conflicts for future construction projects.

Objectives of the study

1. To know if conflicts can be resolved in Nigerian construction industries.

2. To ascertain the relationship between conflict resolution and construction industries in Nigeria

Research questions

1. Can conflicts be resolved in Nigerian construction industries?

2. What relationship exists between conflict resolution and construction industries in Nigeria?

Research hypotheses

Ho: Conflicts cannot be resolved in Nigerian construction industries.

Hi:Conflicts can be resolved in Nigerian construction industries.

Ho: There is no significant relationship between conflict resolution and construction industries in Nigeria.

Hi: There is a significant relationship between conflict resolution and construction industries in Nigeria.

Limitations of the study

The study was with constrained, some of these constraints are:

  1. Finance: It was no doubt a great limited factor for this project considering the worldwide economic recession and the particular financial squeeze within the country. All these combined together or bear on me.
  2. Time Limit: There is also limited amount of time in the course of investigation. This is based on the fact that the researcher will have other task to perform, these includes assignments in the school, going for lectures, preparation for test, examination and others to mention but a few.

Based on these the project covers those areas that are very crucial to the problems under investigation.

Scope of the study

The study is restricted to conflict resolution in Nigerian construction industries; from project managers’ view. Julius Berger was used as the case study for this research.

Definition of terms

Conflict Resolution

Is the process by which two or more parties engaged in a disagreement, dispute or debate to reach an agreement resolving it.

Construction Industry

The branch of manufacture and trade based on the building, maintaining, and repairing structures. 

Project Manager

The person in overall charge of the planning and execution of a particular project.


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Kathleen, M. J. H. (2003). Conflicts between Owner and Contractors : Proposed Intervention Process. Journal of Management in Engineering, ASCE (July 2003),121-124.

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Shin, K.-C.K. (2000).Identification of critical disputes characteristic (cdcs) during construction project operations.Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia.

Brown, H., & A., M. (1993).ADR Principles and Practice. London: Sweet and Maxwell.

Vorster, M. C. (1993). Dispute prevention and resolution. Austin, Texas: Construction Industry Institute (CII).

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