Case studies

The following case studies have been developed following the themes discovered from the Desk Review (Resilience toolkit publication, pages 5-6).

Staff/Student interaction

Clear communication between academic staff and students.

Outline and Background of Case Study

The construction industry is a rough and tumble place. It’s all about getting jobs done and many see it as a ‘kick-ass’ industry. Some construction educators feel it’s no place for sissies. They’ve seen and experienced how difficult it is on site. For example, construction managers need to motivate staff to get things done, defuse arguments, stave off confrontations with union officials and a myriad of other activities that frequently flare up into full-blown confrontations.

These educators feel it’s their duty to prepare their students for the ‘real world’. This sometimes involves taking a hard line with students’ requests for extensions of time, answering their questions in an forceful manner and / or expecting students to experience things the hard way (in other words, in a similar manner to the way the educators learned).

However, students experience a range of pressures and imperatives that didn’t exist in years gone by. Chief amongst these are financial pressures. Whether these are fueled by life-style aspirations or necessity is beside the point – they exist and steer students to act in the way they do. This may mean prioritizing paid employment over academic studies, not communicating with peers or tutors and not ‘taking their studies seriously’ (in other words, with the dedication that educators expect). These and other pressures give rise to not only lack lustre academic performance – they manifest in physical and mental health issues.

With the increasing use of IT, many students do not see the need to attend lectures. The lecture recordings that most educators provide have largely rendered face-to-face contact redundant. The result is that educators rarely get to know what makes students ‘tick’. They simply don’t have the opportunities to find out what’s behind the rare physical interactions they have with their students, or what’s behind the brief and sometime cryptic electronic messages they receive from them.

The following hypothetical example illustrates the tensions and miscommunication that can occur

  • Matt van Rensburg is a project manager with extensive real-world experience. He is working as a part-time lecturer on a contract (and is unsure whether it will be renewed). Matt has a heavy workload of lectures, tutorials, site visits and marking... and now, just when major assignments are due, he’s received several requests for extensions of time. To say he is unhappy is an understatement.
  • Ali Nazeer is a student with money problems. He works two jobs whilst studying. Things have come to a head with Matt’s assignment... Ali thought he could meet the deadline, but was called in to work when he was finishing off his assignment. He is reliant on his jobs to pay rent and feed himself. He’s been sick recently, and his employer has said to him that he either needs to come to work or they will find a replacement for him...
  • What needs to be done to ensure Matt and Ali hear each other out? How can these Matt avoid taking an entrenched position, and hear Ali out?
  • What can Ali do to help his situation?

Purpose - aims and objectives

The purpose of this example is to illustrate how important it is for educators, students, managers, supervisors and workers to delve beyond their first impressions when communicating with others. The reasons why people act the way they do / say what they say, are rarely obvious in brief encounters. People need to take time and make an effort to explore what’s going on behind the scenes.

The aim is to help educators and students understand that they both have responsibilities to each other. Each experiences life and its associated pressures differently. Taking things at face value will inevitably mean that parties do not appreciate the full story. Less than ideal outcomes are likely to result for such interactions.

The objective is to provide educators and students with examples of protective factors to help them build resilience aligned to circumstances of this nature.

Antecedents (precursor)

Poor communication can result in stressful situations for academic staff as well as for students. Both need to respect each other and appreciate the day-to-day challenges each needs to cope with. Improved staff and student satisfaction are likely outcomes of effective communication as well as reduced attrition rates. The following protective factors may help.

Protective Factors

  • The interactions proposed above would alert academics to situations their students were coping with that they were not aware of. Students would be alerted to the importance of for seeking assistance in a pro-active manner.
  • Particular protective factors in this instance can be identified from a discussion around problem solving and role-play.

Risk Factors

  • Students not communicating with academic staff in a timely manner.
  • Students being reluctant to divulge personal information when seeking assistance.
  • Students feeling helpless and hopeless about the situations they find themselves in.
  • Time poor staff having to react in a thoughtful and empathetic manner to students’ requests.
  • Staff not being aware of the nature of support services offered by their institution.
  • Notwithstanding the real challenges many students experience, some try and game the system. Staff should seek assistance from peers, support services and other resources to establish the veracity of students’ requests.
  • Poor people / communication skills on the part of all concerned.

Resilience or coping

  • The case study should alert staff and students to the realities of other people’s lives.
  • Frequently what might seem to be the problem is not the case.
  • Taking time to ask questions in a non-judgmental manner is likely to pay dividends.
  • A capability to defuse a situation of the kind identified is positive.
  • Providing solutions and a way forward, both immediately and in the short term are helpful.

Consequences

A particular consequence arising from the case study can be identified as personal growth. This draws us back to the definition of resilience shown above.


Contribution by

Associate Professor Willy Sher, University of Newcastle


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Site management challenge

The site management challenge is to ensure that everyone is productive.

Outline and Background of Case Study

A common issue on site is the requirement for a subbie (subcontractor) to provide more people resources to maintain their programme and prevent delays to following subcontractors/ trades. Managing subcontractor performance can be a difficult circumstance to cope with.

One example is the requirement for an electricial subcontractor to complete in-wall rough-in so that the gyprock subcontractor can close the wall and allow finishing trades to come through sequentially. In this case the site engineer, a recent Graduate from University has noticed that the gyprock contractor is slow installing the wall frames. This will delay the electrician from starting its in-wall rough-in (commonly refered to as first fix – the general cabling and system install).

The site engineer is tasked to deal with the situation and asks both the gyprocker and the electrician for more resources to be provided to the site at an onsite meeting. The trades indicate they are reluctant to provide more people resources for fear of being held up by the other trade and being less productive. therefore losing money. Clearly the situation of losing money as a result of unproductive people resources is causing significant stress between the site team and its subcontractors.

Purpose - aims and objectives

The purpose of setting out this example is to highlight the necessity of building relationships within your construction teams.

The aim is to highlight to students that the construction industry is people oriented and that building and maintaining relationships is a priority (clearly not at any cost however!). There is a fine line or balance to be found in negotiations (this point may be brought back to negotiating workload in group assignments).

The objective is to Generate discussion around negotiation generally, show there is a balance between current work/workload and future opportunity. Identify that in the larger scheme of things construction is a relatively small industry and give some thought to relationship building workshops as part of induction processes.

Antecedents (precursor)

Antecedents associated with the case study above may be as simple as recognising individual responsibility and to some degree association. For example working together to resolve the problem may actually help each of the contractors make more money from the project. Building rapport with the subcontractors and encouraging them to deal responsibly with each other may also help.

Protective Factors

  • Early intervention together with a motivation to resolve issues in a positive way useful protective factors.
  • Agile problem-solving and sensemaking i.e. making sense of the circumstance also serve as useful protective factors.

Risk Factors

  • It has been identified that in many of the case studies associated with this project there is a tension in resilience between protective factors and risk factors i.e. the stronger the protective factors the less of an impact the risk factors would have.
  • For the purposes of this case study discussion around a negative approach to the problem may stand to enhance a student's learning of the ballot fits associated with resilience.

Resilience or coping

  • Some discussion around possible outcomes associated with the case study with a particular focus on the positive is useful.
  • A capability to defuse a situation of the kind identified is positive.
  • Providing solutions and a way forward, both immediately and in the short term are helpful.

Consequences

Higher levels of competence together with a better understanding of the concept of separating people from the process in circumstances of tension can be discussed as positive consequences arising from this particular case study.


Contribution by

Professor Peter Davis, University of Newcastle

Pat McAllister, Hansen Yuncken


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Building Safety

Outlining a safe work methodology with a subcontractor or inducting on-site operatives to requirements and compliance.

Outline and Background of Case Study

As a framework to a discussion around the topic of this case study Safe Work Australia (SWA) (2015) state in their recent report that due to the high number and rate of work-related injuries and illnesses together with inherent risks associated with working in the industry that construction is a high priority for work health and safety.

  • Construction workers reported a substantially higher proportion of work-related cuts and open wounds compared to workers in other sectors;
  • Construction workers also experienced a greater proportion of injuries due to falls from height compared to other workers;
  • In terms of disease-causing hazards, construction workers reported that the most common hazards in their workplace they were exposed to were airborne hazards, vibration and noise (SWA; 2015 pp5).

SWA (2015) also suggest in their report that almost all construction employers reported that they make work practices safe, removed hazards as much as possible and used personal protective equipment in the workplace. Workers had high levels of agreement, however this level of agreement was less than that of their employers. Only four in ten employers indicated that their workplace reviewed incident reports and statistics. Construction businesses spent much more time per week preparing Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) than businesses in the other priority industries. Almost one third of construction workers agreed that conditions in their workplace stopped them from working safely, which was much higher than reported by employers.

Relevant to the case study that follows, thirty-nine percent of construction employers did not provide any work health and safety training to their employees during 2012. A much higher proportion of construction employers included contractors in their induction training for new employees than employers in other industries. One quarter of construction employees indicated that they accepted risk taking at work. The top six compliance activities undertaken by construction employers were according to Safe Work Australia (2015):

  • The provision of protective clothing or equipment
  • Identification of safety issues
  • Talking with workers (including contractors)
  • Implementing safety measures
  • Talking with other businesses, and
  • Running toolbox sessions.

What a boss must do according to Safe Work Australia

Your boss must: look after your health and safety at work. Your boss must:

  • show you how to do your job safely or make sure someone shows you how to do your job safely
  • make sure there is someone to watch out for you
  • not ask you to do anything that needs a special licence, like drive a car, a crane or a forklift if you don’t have the right licence
  • have the right tools and equipment for you to do your job safely.
  • give you safety equipment if you need it to do your job.

These are some of the things that could hurt you at work:

  • using equipment when nobody has taught you how to use it properly
  • not wearing the right safety equipment or not wearing it properly
  • hurrying and taking short cuts
  • doing things that take your mind off the job while you are working (like using your own mobile phone while you are working). View the full report.

Purpose – aims and objectives

The purpose of setting out this example is to highlight some of the more pertinent facts about contemporary construction safety when compared with other target sectors. Once students become aware of these facts a relatively factual discussion around an induction of site operatives may take place. The top six compliance activities noted above may be utilised.

The aim is to help students understand that whilst there are issues associated with on-site safety, a concerted and proactive approach will ensure that all workers on site return home from work each day.

The objective is to provide students with several actual examples where safety may be improved and discuss in class with a predetermined case study how steps may be put in place to obviate accidents and WHS issues on site.

Some questions:

  • What are the issues if PPE is not provided?
  • Sometimes young people/ or less experienced people are pressured to undertake unsafe acts whilst operating in the workplace
  • Consider workers who simply do not understand what PPE they should be using.

Antecedents (precursor)

Students may feel their job is threatened if they refuse to comply with an instruction on site. They may be keen to show they are compliant and interested in their work regardless of the circumstances they are put in.

Protective Factors

  • Knowing current legislation.
  • Being assertive and clear that you know what your rights and obligations are.
  • Particular protective factors in this instance can be identified from a discussion around engagement in peer group work and perhaps role-play.

Risk Factors

  • The balance between risk and protective factors is said to be a dynamic process. Accordingly, a lack of protective factors would increase the possibility of risk associated with a student’s resilience when considering the case study.
  • Insufficient competency or a lack of basic skills in negotiation or problem-solving may increase the possibility of risk associated with the case study.
  • Support - it may be noted that the student may take the opportunity to prepare prior to the meeting.

Resilience or coping

  • Some discussion around possible outcomes associated with the case study with a particular focus on the positive is useful.
  • A capability to defuse a situation of the kind identified is positive.
  • Providing solutions and a way forward, both immediately and in the short term are helpful.

Consequences

A particular consequence arising from the case study can be identified as personal growth. This draws us back to the definition of resilience shown above


Contribution by

Professor Peter Davis, University of Newcastle

Further reading

Safe Work Australia (2015). "Work Health & Safety Perceptions: Construction Industry." S. W. Australia, ed., Stakeholder Engagement, Safe Work Australia, Canberra ACT 2601.


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Contracts Administration

A case of a Contracts Administrator dealing with claims from subcontractors.

Outline and Background of Case Study

The steel fixer on a particular project has continued to under resource their work. As a result, the main (head) contractor’s programme has suffered a significant delay. In the recent past the Project Manager has instructed the Contract Administrator, who is a third year University student working part time, to issue repeated contractual notices to the steel fixer explianing their obligation to maintain the programme. To date there has been no change to the level of people resources being provided and the subcontractor has not responded to the Contracts Administrator.

The Project Manager finally makes the decision to engage another steel fixer to work alongside the incumbent. The site team believes they can manage the work in such a way as to allow the two subcontractors to ‘leap frog’ each other as the structure progresses. They anticipate they can make up the lost time.

The Contract Administrator works hard late into the evening throughout the whole week to rapidly procure the additional subcontractor at acceptable rates. There are several meetings with various subcontractors to attempt to agree rates. Finally, agreement is reached with one subcontractor and arrangments are made for the firm to commence work with the proviso that they are provided new PPE to their entire workforce on site together with an enhanced site allowance for the duration of their work on site.

For a few days it appears that the problem has been resolved. However, when the incumbent steel fixer observes the preferential treatment of the new steel fixer, a massive argument ensues and they walk off the job. The steel fixer subsequently submits an outrageous payment claim that includes loss of profit on the part of the contract that had been removed. The Contract Administrator needs to deal with this.

Given the animosity that has been generated throughout the project to date, this will be a difficult and somewhat daunting task. The whole issue has created significant anxiety within the site team and the other supporting subcontractors.

Purpose – aims and objectives

The purpose of setting out this example is to show how care and discretion needs to be taken when dealing with scope changes through the life of a construction project. Contracts administration is a complicated task and what appears to be a relatively simple decision may have significant implication.

The aim is to help students understand that obtaining a clear grasp of the coursework in this program (in this instance contracts administration) will put them in a good position to manage circumstances similar to those outlined. They will have a good grasp of a particular Standard Form of Contract and be able to explain its proper use in various circumstances.

The objective is to provide students with the opportunity to seek and identify practical solutions to problems that manifest in the construction industry and build tangible coping strategies to counter any negatives associated with the hypothetical circumstances of the nature described.

Antecedents (precursor)

In a situation where the cadet contracts administrator has limited experience a reasonable solution would be to seek advice from colleagues. Draw on their expertise and brainstorm about possible alternative solutions. This would be rather similar to a group work assignment in coursework study.

Think about negotiations that happen when students are given assignments as group work. Further reading may be necessary and advice to the student to consider reflection on the problem and strategise on future action would be beneficial.

Protective Factors

  • Generally, the protective factors identified above would place the young cadet contract administrator in a good position to deal with the circumstance.
  • Particular protective factors in this instance can be identified from a discussion around problem- solving, engagement in peer group work and role-play.
  • In class it would be worthwhile to explain that whilst a circumstance of this nature is confronting, positive antecedents and use of the aforementioned protective factors should reduce the risk factors.

Risk Factors

  • The balance between risk and protective factors is said to be a dynamic process. Accordingly, a lack of protective factors would increase the possibility of risk associated with a student’s resilience when considering the case study.
  • Insufficient competency or a lack of basic skills in negotiation or problem-solving may increase the possibility of risk associated with the case study.
  • Support - it may be noted that the builder and cadet contracts administrator may take the opportunity to prepare prior to the meeting. This would be regardless of the confrontation identified.

Resilience or coping

  • Some discussion around possible outcomes associated with the case study with a particular focus on the positive is useful.
  • A capability to defuse a situation of the kind identified is positive.
  • Providing solutions and a way forward, both immediately and in the short term are helpful.

Consequences

A particular consequence arising from the case study can be identified as personal growth. This draws us back to the definition of resilience shown above.


Contribution by

Professor Peter Davis, University of Newcastle

Pat McAllister, Hansen Yuncken


Download/print this case study (PDF, 34KB)

Estimating preliminaries

Pricing preliminaries and determining a margin for profits and overheads

Outline and Background of Case Study

The New Intercity Fleet is a $2.3 billion NSW Government PPP project to replace trains carrying customers from Sydney to the Central Coast, Newcastle, the Blue Mountains and the South Coast. RailConnect (a consortium of Hyundai Rotem, Mitsubishi Electric Australia and UGL) will design and build the passenger carriages, with the first trains delivered by 2019 and the rest of the fleet being delivered progressively through to 2022. Maintenance will be undertaken at a new facility in Kangy Angy, located between Sydney and Newcastle on the Central Coast of NSW.

RailConnect will procure, supply, install, integrate and commission the maintenance facility installation works and provide input into the design of the maintenance facility construction.

As a new graduate from a construction management course you will be responsible for estimating the right price in a three-week period, whilst dealing with a significant quantity of tender addenda that keep coming through until a day before the tender closes.

Questions:

  • What happens if your tender price is found to be extremely low after tenderer details are published?
  • What about all the wasted effort if your price is too high?

Purpose – aims and objectives

The purpose of setting out this example is to show that some activities in the construction industry are highly time constrained and require intense concentration to detail, somewhat similar to the assignment deadlines that you are currently doing. Good time management is important.

The aim is to help students understand that obtaining a clear grasp of the coursework in this unit will put them in a good position to manage circumstances similar to those outlined.

The objective is to provide students with several good examples of personal time management strategies to help them build resilience aligned to a circumstance of this nature.

Antecedents (precursor)

A positive work – life balance and work ethic will assist in the circumstance identified. Thorough time management skills are also a prerequisite. A positive work – life balance and work ethic would assist in the circumstance identified.

Thorough time management skills are also a prerequisite. These time management skills can be built into assessments and at the time of reflecting on past coursework exercises.

Protective Factors

In the particular circumstances identified in the case study above it may be observed that building peer group relationships and managing those relationships together with associated task allocation in a fair and equitable way would be useful.

Risk Factors

Following the items identified under protective factors, it may be observed that discussion around engaging support, building competence in the coursework would serve to reduce the risk factors.

Resilience or coping

  • Some discussion around possible outcomes associated with the case study with a particular focus on the positive is useful.
  • Providing solutions and a way forward, both immediately and in the short term are helpful.

Consequences

A particular benefit arising from the case study identified above would be the discussion around personal time management. As indicated from the outset there are many activities in construction which are highly time constrained and required detailed attention owing to their relatively complex nature.

High levels of organisational capability and understanding people management would be useful benefits and consequences arising from this case study.


Contribution by

Professor Peter Davis, University of Newcastle

Pat McAllister, Hansen Yuncken


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What it means to be a professional

Learning ethics and aspects of Professional Practice.

Outline and Background of Case Study

A mature age student has recently graduated. He had a trade background prior to obtaining his degree and with previous experience taken into account he received RPL for the first semester in the CM degree. As a consequence of this he missed out on the typical course/ unit that runs through the advantages of joining a professional body. In his working day with a SME QS practice he has to attend site for interim valuations of the works and assessing variations on behalf of the major consultants.

His most recent project is a multi-million- dollar complex for the NSW State Government refurbishing a child care centre. He visits the site monthly. On a particular occasion an earthworks contractor approaches him and asks if at the same time he undertakes the progress report for the client he would also measure and estimate the work that the earthworks operatives have carried out. The earthworks contractor indicates that he would be prepared to pay for the service – cash in an envelope.

The QS considers the proposition... he wonders if it would make a difference to his employer? He could do with a bit of extra cash as the rent he current pays on his city unit is about to increase.

Questions:

  • Ask students for their understanding of ethics in a broad context.
  • Is there a conflict of interest in the above scenario?
  • What personal values come into play in the above scenario?
  • Can you think of a company policy that would help the QS in the above scenario?

Purpose – aims and objectives

The purpose of setting out this example is to highlight an ethical dilemma that may arise in the day to day activities of a professional builder or QS/ consultant. Due to the nature of construction project delivery there are many situations when a newly graduated student will have to grapple with the ambiguous aspects of professional practice and ethics.

The aim is to help students understand that aligning professional practice with a Code of Conduct will put them in a good position to manage circumstances similar to those outlined. It would be beneficial for students to obtain a good grasp of a typical Code and be able to explain its proper use.

The objective is to familiarize students with several examples of Codes of Practice from the various accrediting bodies associated within built environment disciplines that will assist them in resolving the case study dilemma set out and other issues of a similar nature that may arise in the course of the discussion.

Antecedents (precursor)

In this circumstance antecedents may include for example; financial capability – the pressure of meeting personal bills described in the case study would likely put the student under stress; the unexpected nature of

the offer from the earthworks contractor, compounded with little experience of such an event from the student’s perspective may also serve to unsettle the student.

Protective Factors

  • Being able to recognize unknowns (the circumstances associated with the case study) would be a good protective factor; i.e. knowing when and who to ask.
  • Peer support
  • Knowledge that the graduate is working in a supportive and professional environment bound by the policy associated with professional practice would be a significant protective factor.
  • In class it would be worthwhile to explain that whilst a circumstance of this nature is confronting, positive antecedents and use of the aforementioned protective factors should reduce the risk factors.

Risk Factors

  • The balance between risk and protective factors is said to be a dynamic process. Accordingly, a lack of protective factors would increase the possibility of risk associated with a student’s resilience when considering the case study.
  • Insufficient competency or a lack of professional practice awareness may increase the possibility of risk associated with the case study. Discussion around this risk factor would help students develop resilience.
  • Support - it may be noted that the builder and cadet contracts administrator may take the opportunity to prepare prior to the meeting. This would be regardless of the confrontation identified.

Resilience or coping

  • Some discussion around possible outcomes associated with the case study with a particular focus on the positive is useful. Confidence, and to some degree the expertise drawn from discussions of this nature have the ability to enhance resilience or coping.
  • A capability (utilising the expertise identified in the bullet point above) to defuse a situation of the kind identified is positive.
  • Providing solutions and a way forward, both immediately and in the short term are helpful.

Consequences

A particular consequence arising from the case study can be identified as personal growth. This draws us back to the definition of resilience shown above


Contribution by

Professor Peter Davis, University of Newcastle


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Professional practice

A case of understanding a potential professional ethical dilemma and how that can involve meeting obligations to a number of stakeholders with competing interests.

Outline and Background of Case Study

A recently accredited Building Surveyor, working in a small building certification practice, is involved in carrying out progress inspections at critical stages in the construction of a new dwelling. Unbeknown to the Building Surveyor, the processing of the original development application for the dwelling by the local council had generated a significant amount of concern for the owners of nearby properties, primarily in respect of how the height of the building would impact on views from those nearby properties. The local council had considered the objections raised by the owners of nearby properties and determined to approve the development application.

Shortly after the Building Surveyor has inspected and passed the framing of the building, she is contacted by an owner of a property that adjoins the site, alleging that the building is being constructed at a height that is higher than approved. The neighbour demands that the Building Surveyor take action to have the building brought into compliance with the approval.

The Building Surveyor contacts the Builder to discuss the allegation that has been made in respect of the height of the building. The builder advises that he has just received a survey report that identifies that the ridgeline of the dwelling as constructed is 50mm higher than provided for by the original approval. The Builder argues that the extra height has no appreciable additional impact on views from nearby properties, being within construction tolerances and within the range of discretion available to the Building Surveyor.

While engaged by the owner of the new dwelling, the Building Certifier's legislated status is that of a public official, with primary responsibilities to the general public.

The Building Surveyor is faced with deciding whether to:

  1. Agree that the height variation falls within her range of discretion and is acceptable; or
  2. Require that the dwelling construction be altered to bring the dwelling into full conformity with the original approval; or
  3. Advise that the height variation needs to be the subject of an application to the local council to modify the original development approval.

Whichever course of action is chosen, there is likely to be an aggrieved party to the matter, which could have further consequences for the Building Surveyor if they have not exercised their judgement with sufficient competence and professionalism.

Purpose – aims and objectives

The purpose of setting out this example is to highlight the type of dilemmas that face Building Surveyors from time to time. As a public authority, a Building Surveyor needs to be able to apply themselves to such a situation in a way that gives due regard to meeting their obligations under relevant legislation and to also meet the standards of professional conduct required in connection with their accreditation.

The aim is to help students understand that obtaining a clear grasp of the coursework in this unit will put them in a good position to manage circumstances similar to those outlined.

The objective is to provide students with guidance on protective factors to help them build resilience aligned to a circumstance of this nature.

Antecedents (precursor)

For a young Building Surveyor, the situation may appear to be somewhat confronting, given that an inadequate response may lead to their standard of professional conduct being raised with their accreditation body by an aggrieved party. When a situation such as that described is experienced for the first time, it may be difficult to maintain a professional approach. The following protective factors may help.

Protective Factors

  • While technical skills are important, it is at least equally important to have a solid underpinning knowledge of governance, ethics and expected standards of professional conduct.
  • Work experience and interaction with peers will assist, but care should be taken to critically analyse such experiences to ensure that unsatisfactory attitudes are avoided. Accreditation bodies publish case studies that are based on actual disciplinary actions against accredited persons - consideration of such case studies can be particularly useful in understanding the range of situations that can lead to unsatisfactory professional conduct and how to avoid such conduct. Similarly, court or tribunal judgements relating to such matters can also be a source of guidance.
  • In an industry that involves significant personal interaction with people who bring varied personal perspectives, good communication skills are essential. For persons wishing or needing to improve their ability to communicate well in confronting situations, formal training in presentation skills can be particularly useful.

Risk Factors

  • A lack of experience or knowledge of the types of difficult situations that can arise in professional practice can lead to unsatisfactory responses in some situations.
  • Young professionals may lack a suitable mentor or simply not have enough interaction with peers to gain an adequate understanding of how they should conduct themselves. Equally, they may learn from peers whose standard of professionalism is relatively poor.
  • A failure to keep up to date with changing industry standards and practices will inevitably generate professional risk.
  • When faced with a difficult situation, providing a direct un-researched response while under pressure may not be the best response.

Resilience or coping

  • Of the potential decision options mentioned in the case study, arriving at the best option will depend on giving due consideration to all relevant factors in the case and having a good understanding of the limitations on the professional's role in the process.
  • While timely communication is important, it may be preferable to take a little time away from a confronting situation to better consider and/or research a response.
  • Some Building Surveyors who are confronted with the type of situation described in the case study may seek to obtain advice from the local council. However, this approach may not always generate the desired response. It may be preferable to obtain advice from another professional who is independent of the situation at hand.
  • Timely professional communication with all parties involved in the matter is important. While it can be difficult to communicate an outcome that is adverse to a person's personal interest in the matter, it will usually be in your best long term interests to do so.

Consequences

A particular consequence arising from the case study is the need to adopt a professional approach to decision making while under pressure from people with competing interests, when the professional is accountable to all involved parties.

Contribution by

Geoffrey Douglass, accredited Building Surveyor.


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Industrial environment

Outline and Background of Case Study

The direct employees on your small commercial site have decided that they want additional time to "clean up" at the end of the shift. This follows on from a visit by a worksafe inspector, who noted that the type of metal sheeting being used on the site for the façade was creating many small offcuts, which were dangerous when left lying around.

You had encouraged the direct employees to clean up as they worked, but the nature of the work made that difficult and no-one seemed to be doing a progressive clean-up. The subbies were disinterested and did not clean at all.

The additional clean-up time would eat into the project schedule, which was already very behind.

You tell the shop steward, that additional time will not be allowed or paid for. The workers meet and decide to demand the time or overtime to cover the clean-up.

They say that they will call the CFMEU organizer if you refuse.

You refuse and the union organizer arrives the next day and says there are "bans" on all metal work and clean- ups, until some agreement re additional overtime is reached.

  • How will you handle this?
  • How will you get the workers back to work and the bans lifted?
  • How can you stop this happening again?

Purpose – aims and objectives

The purpose of setting out this example is to show how easily a difference of opinion can become an argument in the construction industry. This is not an unusual circumstance. It may happen at various times through the life of a construction project, regardless of procurement method.

The aim is to help students understand that obtaining a clear grasp of the coursework in this unit will put them in a good position to manage circumstances similar to those outlined. They will have a good grasp of the XYZ Standard form of contract and be able to explain its proper use.

The objective is to provide students with several examples of protective factors to help them build resilience aligned to a circumstance of this nature.

Antecedents (precursor)

For young cadet contracts administrators, the situation may appear to be somewhat traumatic from a psychological perspective. There may have been little preparation for the confrontation that ensued. Many graduates feel they have to “solve” onsite problems quickly and without help, or they may be seen as weak/indecisive. The following protective factors may help.

Protective Factors

  • Generally, the protective factors identified above would place the young cadet contract administrator in a good position to deal with the circumstance.
  • Particular protective factors in this instance would include peer group work and role-play. Discuss the responses of different players in the role play. Highlight emotive words and tensions. Discuss how they “add or detract” from confidence and resilience.
  • Get students in class to brainstorm a list of possible solutions. In groups discuss which of these they feel competent to handle and why/why not. Understand that not every solution will be the same.
  • Have students draw relationship trees in class for this case study and ask them to talk about the relationship between each branch, and how such relationships develop. This contributes to greater understanding of “where I fit in as a graduate” and less stress to cope in all situations.
  • Discuss escalation of the issues and make a drawing of an “UP” staircase of things that escalate the conflicts. Then in class make a drawing of a “DOWN’ staircase of things that can be done to reduce tension and thus lack of control which leads to feelings of helplessness/not coping.
  • In class it would be worthwhile to explain that whilst a circumstance of this nature is confronting, positive antecedents and use of the aforementioned protective factors should reduce the risk factors. Explanations by industry guests of other similar situations they have been in, reduces stress upon graduates to “find solutions alone” and to “just cope”.

Risk Factors

  • The balance between risk and protective factors is said to be a dynamic process. Accordingly, a lack of protective factors would increase the possibility of risk associated with a student’s resilience when considering the case study.
  • Insufficient competency, knowledge of industrial issues or a lack of basic skills in negotiation or problem-solving may increase the possibility of risk associated with the case study.
  • Support - it may be noted that the builder and cadet contracts administrator may take the opportunity to prepare prior to the meeting. This would be regardless of the confrontation identified.
  • Entrenching of basic perceptions and feelings needs to be addressed. Pre-held beliefs about subbies, unions etc. contributes to poor actions, which contribute to stress and not coping feelings in young grads.

Resilience or coping

  • Some discussion around possible outcomes associated with the case study with a particular focus on the positive is useful. Note emotions in role play situations and discuss these as a group.
  • A capability to defuse a situation of the kind identified is positive.
  • Providing solutions and a way forward, both immediately and in the short term are helpful. Graduates need to realize that there may not be an immediate solution and they do not always have to “solve” all industrial issues.

Consequences

A particular consequence arising from the case study is confidence building & personal growth. Students should be led to understand that experience in the industry is in fact a growth in relationship skills, not a defined set of “dos and don’ts” that can be learnt.


Contribution by

Professor Peter Davis, University of Newcastle


Download/print this case study (PDF, 40KB)

HR and communications management

A case of negotiation with Unions and/ or external stakeholders.

Outline and Background of Case Study

You are a site manager for a small commercial development Company, Harris Constructions. The site is valued at $1.2 million, located in Carlton, Melbourne, Vic. It is a small 2 storey warehouse built behind a semi demolished shop front. The shop front housed a chemist store and chemicals were stored on the premises.

There are three direct workers on the site, a carpenter, and two labourers. You have worked with them before and the carpenter also doubles as the leading hand when needed. There are six other workers on the site: sub- contractor concrete and form workers, along with steel fixers. You are project managing all of the sub- contractor packages. It is Tuesday morning at 9am.

The steel fixers have called a CFMEU organiser to the site (9.30am) as they claim there is excessive dust and the left-over demolition soil is contaminated and contains hazardous waste, including asbestos and other hazardous latent materials. They refuse to continue work on the site until the CFMEU arrives. The steel fixers have convinced the direct labourer to join and down tools in the lunch room. The leading hand has no work to do.

Purpose – aims and objectives

The purpose of this case study is to highlight essential qualities within construction management personnel and communication management. Regardless of the external stakeholder the principles will remain largely the same.

The aim is to identify an individual's sphere of control.

The objective is to help students understand where their responsibilities and accountabilities lie.

Antecedents (precursor)

For graduates, handling IR issues and OHS issues is fraught with emotions and perceptions. They are stressful situations and destroy confidence. Building resilience to cope is often difficult. Explain that emotions and perceptions contribute to stress and that problems and solutions are often not accessible/available to them at graduate level. The following will help.

Protective Factors

  • Protective factors detailed above, with great emphasis upon role plays and then analysis of the role players efforts and attitudes to solutions forming on-going discussion: eg: why did you answer like that? What was your body language during that discussion etc.
  • In class have every student make a word cloud ( or list) of the 5 words they think of when they hear CFMEU; sub-contractor; direct/indirect labour; hazards. Discuss the answers, have students identify which words are “personal feelings, which are facts and which are just hunches/perceptions”
  • Have students identify their roles in OHS/IR matters.... their responsibilities, the company’s responsibilities and then have them articulate that role to other students in non-threatening manner. Identify when emotions become apparent.
  • Make class lists of issues that have plagued the industry for many years and encourage students to see the problems as not of anyone’s making/ownership.

Risk Factors

  • Insufficient competency or a lack of basic skills in negotiation or problem-solving may increase the possibility of risk associated with the case study.
  • Lack of information/knowledge about OHS/IR responsibilities which can lead to greater stress/lack of resilience
  • Poor case study outcomes can contribute to ongoing perceptions of not coping, which creates lack of resilience.
  • Entrenching of perceptions previously held, which causes ongoing tension

Resilience or coping

This case study is typical of day to day issues on site. Students should be able to identify that these problems are always happening and that they need to “pace” themselves to build resilience to these types of issues.

  • Discussions on role plays and potential responses
  • Class discussions on the word clouds created/identification of pre-held perceptions.

Consequences

  • Personal growth
  • Opportunities to challenge previously held beliefs and perceptions

Contribution by

Professor Peter Davis, University of Newcastle

Tricia McLaughlin, RMIT


Download/print this case study (PDF, 40KB)

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