Attitudes to psychological stress awareness, avoidance and management in organisations engaged in construction project management: a comparison with business at large.

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


A pilot study (Patching and Best 2014) revealed that attitudes to psychological stress and its management differed between construction project managers and broader business employees. Of concern was the contradiction between a study by Keegel, Ostrey and LaMontagne in 2009 and a study of suicide rates among young Australian construction workers(BERT 2008). The former work showed a decrease in work-place injury over a three-year period in construction and across business at large. However, there was an exponential increase in stress-related illness across business at large over that period, but virtually no increase within the construction industry, despite the suicide rate for male construction workers under 30 years of age being 2.38 times the national average (BERT 2008). Important findings from the pilot study are detailed in section 1.05. A drive to better understand these findings motivated this work.

The purpose of the study therefore, was to understand the extent to which the findings regarding on-site construction workers might also be found among construction project managers. A construction project manager was defined for this research, as ‘any professional who works in the management and coordination of the delivery of design, procurement and/or execution or construction of a construction project and who does not work as a tradesperson on such projects’. Accordingly, in this study, the term construction project manager includes project managers, contract administrators, contract managers and construction project site managers.

Another objective of this study was to compare attitudes to avoidance and/or management of psychological stress among construction project managers with those of administration staff working in construction related organisations, and with those of people from business unrelated to construction.

A mixed research methodology was adopted. Data for quantitative analysis and comparisons were collected using an on-line survey questionnaire. Quantitative analysis of data collected involved the use of both descriptive and inferential statistics. The qualitative work employed ethnographic methods, including semi-structured interviews, participant observations,narrative thematic analysis and researcher reflection within a broader interpretive and hermeneutic research framework.

It was intended that this work would provide a basis for the formulation of an education platform to help all industry professionals to become acutely and constantly aware of how psychological stress manifested for themselves and others within their work environment, and of some of the simple measures that were available to alleviate its effects.

Important findings of the research included the existence of substantially different attitudes to psychological stress avoidance and management between construction project managers and managers from business-at-large, the existence of workplace practices regarding winning and delivering projects that constituted major contributors to the causes of workplace stress in the construction industry, and the prevalence of problematic construction industry specific cultural attitudes to construction project managers admitting to experiencing any effects of workplace stress.

This research identified a knowledge gap between understandings of the avoidance and management of psychological stress between construction project management and business at-large. It proceeded to fill that knowledge gap, and in so doing articulated important contributions, not only to academic theory, but also to practical solutions for the construction industry at large. It importantly also provided insight into future research that should follow on from this work, to address the industry problems confirmed by this study.Recommendations regarding the nature and form of that future research were articulated in the final chapter of the work.
Date of Award12 Oct 2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMichael Regan (Supervisor) & Peta Stapleton (Supervisor)

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