A conceptual model of psychological contracts in construction projects

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Yongjian Ke
Peter Davis
Marcus Jefferies


The strategic importance of relationship style contracting is recognised in the construction industry. Both public and private sector clients are stipulating more integrated and collaborative forms of procurement. Despite relationship and integrated contractual arrangement being available for some time, it is clear that construction firms have been slow to adopt them. Hence it is timely to examine how social exchanges, via unwritten agreement and behaviours, are being nurtured in construction projects. This paper adopted the concept of Psychological Contracts (PC) to describe unwritten agreement and behaviours. A conceptual model of the PC is developed and validated using the results from a questionnaire survey administered to construction professionals in Australia. The results uncovered the relationships that existed amongst relational conditions and relational benefits, the PC and the partners’ satisfaction. The results show that all the hypotheses in the conceptual model of the PC are supported, suggesting the PC model is important and may have an effect on project performance and relationship quality among contracting parties. A validated model of the PC in construction was then developed based on the correlations among each component. The managerial implications are that past relationships and relationship characteristics should be taken into account in the selection of procurement partners and the promise of future resources, support and tangible relational outcomes are also vital. It is important for contracting parties to pay attention to unwritten agreements (the PC) and behaviours when managing construction projects.

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How to Cite
Ke, Y., Davis, P., & Jefferies, M. (2016). A conceptual model of psychological contracts in construction projects. Construction Economics and Building, 16(3), 20-37. https://doi.org/10.5130/AJCEB.v16i3.4993
Articles (Peer reviewed)
Author Biographies

Yongjian Ke, University of Newcastle

Lecturer, School of Architecture and Built Environment

Peter Davis, University of Newcastle

Professor, School of Architecture and Built Environment

Marcus Jefferies, University of Newcastle

Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture and Built Environment