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Ethics For Constructors: Which Personnel Should You Communicate to Owners?

Construction companies and contractors often face an ethical dilemma of which personnel to list in a construction bid package.

– Should constructors list every high-ranking, experienced individual who may or may not be responsible for the bulk of the construction project in order to make your bid more attractive to the owner?

– Or, should you present a more realistic view of the actual personnel who will be leading the project and performing the day-to-day work, even if that means creating a less attractive bid?

The key for constructors is to think about how you want to be viewed in the market. Do you want to be accused of bait and switch tactics? Or, is it better to maintain a positive reputation in the market and build long-term relationships that are centered on trust?

In the latest installment of our Ethics for Constructors series, let’s review this ethical situation in action to unpack the importance of construction communication during the project bid phase.

Example of a Construction Communication Ethical Challenge

Ethics in Construction Situation: Let’s say that you are a construction project manager who is building experience, but you are not a senior project manager just yet. Now it’s your turn to manage the construction site with the so-called “B Team.” During the project, the owner comes on-site to review progress and asks where the key people went (the “A Team”).

It’s your company’s practice to list senior people in the project bid package as the main team that will be running the project. But, these individuals are usually on the job site for the first 2-4 weeks and then are replaced by junior personnel at lower salaries for the rest of the project.

As a “B Team” project manager, you are constantly asked by the owner about when the “good people” will return. You are tired of being asked this question on a constant basis and now you’re questioning your company’s practice. Is this an unethical practice? Is this an example of misleading the owner and creating false expectations of who will be performing the work?

Ethics in Construction Answer: There is a true debate regarding the efficacy of this practice.  Many people in the construction industry argue that this practice is followed so often that everyone “knows” that the people listed in the bid will not be on the project full time. They also know that if the senior people stayed for the full duration of the project, then project costs would run higher.  

Nevertheless, just because the industry “winks and nods” at the practice does not make it ethical. Constructors should always strive for transparency and support effective communication by advising owners of your intended actions if you were to win the bid.

It is advisable for constructors to inform owners of the expected schedule of when certain personnel will be on-site. For example, make it known in your project bid that you require senior personnel to review work at the construction site at least once per month. This way, the owner has clear expectations about how the project will be managed if they award the project to your firm.

Find Support for Challenging Ethical Issues in Construction

Deciding which personnel to list in a construction bid package is just one ethical issue that constructors face when attempting to win work. There are many other ethical issues that need to be considered so that you do not create a false impression about your firm’s ability to execute the project.

When putting together a construction bid package, constructors should always aim to avoid engaging in any deceptive practice or a practice that creates an unfair advantage for the constructor. Know where the line is at all times and pursue effective communication with the owner to maintain a positive working relationship.

– To learn more about ethical issues involving construction communication, we encourage you to join AIC. You will have the opportunity to learn from experienced construction professionals who have navigated similar ethical issues in construction. Take advantage of the wealth of knowledge in our organization to support your firm and advance in your career.

– Also, subscribe to the AIC email newsletter! Receive information about ethical issues affecting the construction industry directly to your inbox. To subscribe, drop your name and email address in the sign-up box below.

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