To insist or to concede? Chinese contractors' behavioural strategies when handling disputed construction claims

  • Lihan Zhang

Student thesis: Phd


When resolving disputed construction claims, contractors may insist on pursuing their rights or may instead concede to a certain extent. These two behavioural strategies have their respective advantages and disadvantages, resulting in a dilemma for contractors. An issue worth investigating arises from this practical problem, i.e. how should contractors adjust their behavioural strategies? Drawing on the theoretical perspectives of contractual governance as well as conflict and dispute management, this research project aims to develop an in-depth understanding of contractors’ selection of behavioural strategies by empirically examining the impacts of multiple factors and the contingent use of behavioural strategies. A literature review and a semi-structured questionnaire survey were utilised to identify potential influential factors. Quantitative data were then collected via a structured questionnaire survey, with a total of 248 valid questionnaires completed by Chinese contractors. Partial least squares structural equation modelling was employed to analyse the relationships between identified factors, behavioural strategies, and the dispute resolution outcome. Next, a subgroup analysis was conducted to explore how these factors influence behavioural strategies in the good outcome subgroup. The results show that favourability of evidence, time pressure, and reputation exert the largest impacts on the contractual approach and the relational approach regarding obliging and compromising, respectively. Obliging behaviours are negatively correlated with procedural fairness but positively correlated with occurrence time of the dispute. The contractual approach improves the outcome, whilst obliging behaviours have the opposite effect. Among contractors who achieve a good outcome, the existence of other ongoing project(s) positively affects both obliging and compromising behaviours, whereas future cooperation only increases compromising behaviours. This research project enriches contractual governance research from the reactive perspective and, particularly, regarding influential factors of contract application in problem situations. It also complements the construction dispute management literature on drivers of behavioural strategies and adds to the current body of knowledge on conflict and dispute management by uncovering the relationships matching drivers with behavioural strategies. Practically, contractors need to be aware of the influential factors behind their behavioural decisions. The findings provide contractors with guidance on appropriate behavioural strategies to improve outcomes. Deep awareness of contractors’ possible actions additionally enables adjustment of owners’ responses. The findings also offer both contractors and owners insights into their ex-ante attention on the drivers facilitating subsequent dispute resolution.
Date of Award1 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorFrancis Fenn (Supervisor) & Ian Stewart (Supervisor)


  • relational approach
  • contractual approach
  • claims
  • construction projects
  • dispute resolution

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