THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN A DISPUTE AND CONFLICT IS NOT STRAIGHTFORWARD.
While Conflict can exist without Disputes, a Dispute cannot exist without Conflict.
Disputes, whether latent or blatant, are manifestations of conflict. Conflicts can remain dormant until they erupt as disputes – you might say that disputes bring conflicts to the surface. Resolving the dispute is not the same as resolving the conflict. Settling disputes answers to the immediate problems at hand. Most often Dispute Settlement is absolutely necessary, but it is something of a ‘Band-Aid’: this does not resolve the underlying cause of the trouble and further steps must be taken.
We need to look for the Conflict that gives rise to the Dispute.
This in the hope of resolving the conflict by coming to agreeable and sustainable terms between disputants. Dispute Settlement and Conflict Resolution are two components of Conflict Management, but it doesn’t end there.
A good Conflict Management System includes Settlement and Resolution…
…but covers an entire spectrum of practices from formal, to informal and developmental. Traditional avenues still have their place: mediation, grievance procedures, arbitration and other actions based on power or rights are not out the window. One hopes to stick to more positive means based on interests, needs and creativity, but the point is that Conflict Management is all encompassing.
A good Conflict Management System examines the Conflict itself; how it was resolved…
…its successes and failures; how best to use this knowledge across the board and for the future; and of course the disputants’ improved ability to resolve conflict without the need for intervention by third parties Resolution must have sustainability – and that means ideas that work. Innovation and the creative process that resolves a conflict or crisis can often be used in other proactive ways to unlock and leverage this value.
Conflict Management involves curbing the negative consequences of conflict, while taking advantage of the potential for positive transformation that conflict offers. Once underlying causes having been dealt with, the search for opportunities begins. This is not to ‘resolve further’: it is a separate exercise, possibly touched on during the resolution phase. The aim of Conflict Management is to enhance results: finding common ground between interdependent players will always be a creative process.
Conflict Management sees conflict as a significant resource, never leaving value on the table.
Workplace conflict is probably the most avoidable cost that organisations face and the most damaging in terms of poor practice, under performance and waste of valuable management time ~ Nora Doherty (UK), leading consultant in workplace mediation.