A Study of Intention to Settle in Construction Dispute Negotiation 


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Awarding Institution
Award date15 Aug 2023


Disputes are almost inevitable in any sizeable construction project. A notable increase in the number of disputes has been witnessed during the years of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is true that adjudicative dispute resolution methods, such as arbitration and litigation, are always available, early dispute resolution through negotiation remains the best settlement option for the disputing parties. Construction dispute negotiation (CDN) is considered the most cost-effective way due to its informal, fast-tracking, and relationship-maintenance characteristics. However, most negotiation studies assume that negotiators will decide to settle or otherwise based on rational analysis. This may not be true; negotiated settlement can only be achieved when negotiators have the intention to do so. The overarching research aim of this study is to realize the significance of intention to settle (ITS) in CDNs. To achieve that, this study seeks to answer the following questions.
•Is there a relationship between negotiation failure and ITS?
•What are the underlying constructs of ITS and how to measure ITS?
•Does negotiators’ settlement intention affect their negotiating behaviors?
•What are the key factors that hamper or enable negotiators’ ITS?
•How to enhance negotiators’ ITS or ease the lowering of their ITS?

These questions were explored in five stages of work that are designed to fulfill five objectives. The First Stage of the study examined ITS from the failure perspective. The relationship between negotiators’ perception of failure and ITS was established. The findings uncover possible failing causes of CDNs that negotiators’ distal perception of and low concern for failure can obscure their settlement intention, thus missing the chance to settle. To further identify ITS, the Second Stage of this study conceptualized ITS by detailing settlement facilitating behaviors. Three forms of intention, technique-based (preparation and integration), relationship-based (goodwill and continuity), and cognition-based (commitment and self-efficacy), were proposed in the ITS framework. The three forms of intention respectively represent willing-to-settle negotiators’ subjective perceptions toward negotiation issues, their counterpart, and themselves. Applying structural equation modeling analysis, an ITS framework was developed. It was further found that having ITS would engender cooperative negotiating behaviors that are instrumental settlement agents. An inventory development study was conducted in the Third Stage to turn this framework into an ITS identification instrument. The test and retest methodology was used, and a time-consistent ITS identification instrument was successfully developed. As negotiators’ ITS is an indispensable driver for a negotiated settlement, it is essential to explore what are the incentives and disincentives that motivate negotiators to settle or otherwise. In the Fourth Stage, a thorough literature review was conducted to identify and summarize three levels of antecedents. These are social motive (i.e., proself and prosocial) from the intra-organizational level, relational cognition (i.e., perceived power and perceived justice) from the inter-organizational level, and psychological bonding agent (i.e., trust and shared vision) from the project level. According to the cognition-motivation view, the disincentive framework “power-motivation-ITS” and the incentive framework “justice-motivation-ITS” were explored in the Fifth Stage. It was suggested that negotiators’ high perceived power could encourage proself motive and suppress prosocial motive, thereby hindering their ITS. It was further found that distributive, procedural, and interactional justice could foster prosocial motive, thus facilitating their ITS. Moreover, trust and shared vision have been tested as the positive moderating role, especially in having an easing effort on power as well as fostering negotiators’ ITS.

This study contributes to the body of knowledge in CDN by highlighting the significant role of ITS. Most importantly, negotiators’ ITS is conceptualized in three forms. This developed ITS identification instrument can be incorporated into the negotiation decision mechanisms to support negotiators in assessing the readiness to negotiate in terms of the level of settlement intention. The instrument can also be used to evaluate both parties’ settlement intention during the negotiation process. Furthermore, the antecedents of ITS are identified and empirically tested. A better understanding of the incentives and disincentives of ITS can help in analyzing negotiation conditions whereby negotiators can formulate their strategies accordingly. This study thus makes both theoretical and practical advancements in construction dispute management.