Impact of employees´ professional backgrounds on organizational identity and project chemistry in the construction industry

Examensarbete för masterexamen
Master Thesis
Design and construction project management (MPDCM), MSc
Fransson, Sophia
Sundelius, Axel
This thesis is based on a case study performed at one of the largest engineering and consulting companies in Sweden, which operates within the energy-, industrial- and infrastructure sector. The segment of the company operating in the construction industry is expanding rapidly and recruits heavily through mergers with smaller existing consulting companies and through recruiting individuals from contractor companies. This results in people with backgrounds from different trades in the industry working side by side in what seems to be a highly heterogeneous organization. This study aims to examine what impact the varying professional backgrounds of the employees, working in the construction industry at the mentioned company, have on the organizational identity. The purpose is also to analyse what consequences these various backgrounds have on project chemistry. The aim is pursued using an identity theory lens to analyse the findings from the case study. The study revealed that there exist a strong social identity of “Being a contractor” among the people with backgrounds in contracting companies, i.e. who have experience from onsite construction work. The interviews showed that the individuals with onsite experience, now working as consultants, refused to adopt the epithet of “consultant”. They chose to spend all their working hours at the constructions sites with the project’s contractors and not at the office with their consultant colleagues. The findings indicate that people with experience from building sites identify themselves foremost with “Being a contractor” rather than with an organizational identity. This became extra clear in one interview where one of these individuals was interviewed at a construction site and was wearing both jacket and hard hat with the contractor’s logo. The only visible connection to the consultant’s own company was a discreet logo on a key string around the neck, partly concealed by the jacket. There was a dominant narrative attached to the identity of “Being a contractor” which often resulted in these members displaying resistance towards project participants who lack experience from onsite construction work. One interview was conducted with two individuals at the same time, one of the respondents had this experience and the other one lacked it. The interviewees stated that they were friends but throughout the interview they questioned each other's’ views and statements, which was a result of the mindset in their particular professional backgrounds. This interaction made it clear how a professional background entails a specific narrative and that these narratives seem to block not only other narratives but also a common organizational identity. The authors to this thesis argue that this resistance can have a negative impact on project chemistry and on overall project success.
Samhällsbyggnadsteknik , Civil Engineering
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