Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is the process of resolving a dispute or a conflict by meeting at least some of each side’s needs and addressing their interests. Conflict resolution sometimes requires both a power-based and an interest-based approach, such as the simultaneous pursuit of litigation (the use of legal power) and negotiation (attempts to reconcile each party’s interests). There are a number of powerful strategies for conflict resolution.

Knowing how to manage and resolve conflict is essential for having a productive work life, and it is important for community and family life as well. Dispute resolution, to use another common term, is a relatively new field, emerging after World War II. Scholars from the Program on Negotiation were leaders in establishing the field.

Strategies include maintaining open lines of communication, asking other parties to mediate, and keeping sight of your underlying interests. In addition, negotiators can try to resolve conflict by creating value out of conflict, in which you try to capitalize on shared interests, explore differences in preferences, priorities, and resources, capitalize on differences in forecasts and risk preferences, and address potential implementation problems up front.

These skills are useful in crisis negotiation situations and in handling cultural differences in negotiations, and can be invaluable when dealing with difficult people, helping you to “build a golden bridge” and listen to learn, in which you acknowledge the other person’s points before asking him or her to acknowledge yours.

Articles offer numerous examples of dispute resolution and explore various aspects of it, including international dispute resolution, how it can be useful in your personal life, skills needed to achieve it, and training that hones those skills.

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The Post-Election Message to the World: What’s the New Agenda?

PON Staff   •  11/18/2008   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution, Events, The Kelman Seminar

A discussion with:

Ambassador Nicholas Burns: Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He served in the United States Foreign Service for twenty seven years until his retirement in April 2008. He was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2005-2008, the nation’s highest ranking … Read More 

How to Defuse a Strike

PON Staff   •  06/30/2008   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

The recent dispute between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) West and East and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) illustrates how a disagreement at the negotiating table can lead to a long and costly strike. As the two sides battled back and forth, AMPTP member companies laid off support staff, and … Read More 

Why We Strike

PON Staff   •  06/30/2008   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution, Daily

What happens when disputants feel like they have invested too much in a conflict to back down?

There are a number of reasons that negotiations fail and lead to protracted strikes, often to the detriment of both parties.

Both sides frequently believe that their case is stronger due to overconfidence. If one side doubts the other’s claims … Read More 

Resolving Hot Conflicts: Skills for Managers

PON Staff   •  06/30/2008   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Conventional wisdom suggests that team conflicts be resolved by focusing on the task at hand and avoiding interpersonal relationship issues. However, Amy Edmonson of Harvard Business School and Diana McLain Smith of The Monitor Group argue that this approach only works with issues that are “cool” because they can be resolved using objective means.

On the … Read More 

Conflict Within the Ranks: Diagnosing Sources of Conflict

PON Staff   •  06/30/2008   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Conflict within an organization can not only damage morale but also cut into productivity and ultimately profits. Once you recognize that there is ongoing conflict in your organization, how do you go about diagnosing the source?

In his June 2004 article, “Divided, You’ll Fall: Managing Conflict Within the Ranks,” Lawrence Susskind describes the work done by … Read More 

Does Negotiation Have a Place in Crisis Management?

PON Staff   •  06/26/2008   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Does negotiation have a place in crisis management? Many public relations experts would argue no. When a company is confronted with negative publicity, they are advised to reveal as little as possible and denounce their attackers claim. This advice ignores the fact that what an angry public wants is to be heard.

After stranding thousands of … Read More 

Handling Employee Relations

PON Staff   •  06/26/2008   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Suppose you have been recently hired as the first full time staff member charged with handling employee relations. You are entering a large accounting firm with an unusually high staff turnover rate and several recent defections by company accounts.

Dispute System Design (DSD) is the process of identifying, designing, employing, and evaluating an effective means of … Read More 

Conflict within Companies

PON Staff   •  06/09/2008   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Conflict within companies can be very costly, both in time and resources. Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR, may be helpful as you consider ways in which you can transition from conflict to productivity within your own organization.

The three most common ADR techniques are: mediation, arbitration, and med-arb. During mediation a neutral third party facilitates a … Read More 

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