Ethnography, impression management and shifting practices

Anne Klitgaard*, Kjeld Svidt, Stefan Christoffer Gottlieb

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingArticle in proceedingResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
49 Downloads (Pure)


The use of ethnographic methods in construction management is increasing. Impression management challenges the ethnographic researcher, who follows one actor on a building site. Shadowing allows a researcher to follow particular participants to observe their bodily movements and use of artefacts. Impression management happens when the observee acts in a different way than he/she would routinely, due to the presence of an audience. In the case of shadowing, the researcher can become an audience, as will the readers of the findings from the investigation. A study into contract managers' practices on-site uses shadowing as its primary method for data collection. A contract manager is being observed to gain an insight into the practices in which he participates. However, impression management presents a very noticeable challenge from the beginning of the study. We show how the researcher is perceived as an audience and how this prompts the observed contract manager to reflect on the practices on-site in dialogue with the researcher. On this basis, we raise the question, whether the continued performance of impression management by practitioners due to prolonged fieldwork can lead the observed practice to shift. In conclusion, we argue that the use of shadowing on a building site allows for insights into the complicated practices on site, but it may also influence and displace these practices.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 36th Annual ARCOM Conference
EditorsLloyd Scott, Christopher J. Neilson
Number of pages10
Place of PublicationLeeds
PublisherAssociation of Researchers in Construction Management
Publication date2020
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-9955463-3-2
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Event36th Annual Conference on Association of Researchers in Construction Management, ARCOM 2020 - Virtual, Online, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Sep 20208 Sep 2020


Conference36th Annual Conference on Association of Researchers in Construction Management, ARCOM 2020
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityVirtual, Online


  • Ethnography
  • Impression management
  • Research methods
  • Shadowing


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