In today’s fast-paced business world, time is everything. Conflict resolution is no exception to that rule. Businesses that get stuck in disputes and aren’t fleet footed at handling conflict will be at a severe competitive disadvantage. Businesses aware of the pitfalls of inter- or intra-company disputes and the benefits of effective dispute resolution are better equipped in today’s bottom-line business world.

The field of dispute resolution has grown substantially over a short period of time. Private corporations increasingly turn to mediation and arbitration as methods of first choice for dispute resolution. Just as businesses are faced with many different types of transactions, dispute resolution also deals with a wide variety of subjects, such as contract disputes, real estate and construction disputes, and tort and insurance cases, just to name a few.

Most people think these types of disputes are resolved in trial before a judge or jury, where lawyers battle it out with the ultimate risk on the line: winning or losing. However, less than 4 to 5 percent of filed cases actually get to trial. Over the years, as the legal costs mounted and outcomes became more unpredictable, more businesses realized taking a dispute to trial was an unsatisfactory method for resolving disputes.

As a consequence, the vast majority of disputes are resolved in various less formal ways that are less costly and give parties more control over the process and outcome. Some businesses account for dispute resolution through arbitration agreements in their various transactional agreements with other businesses. Yet some others rely on some other form of dispute resolution such as mediation, summary jury trials, mini-trials, or early neutral evaluations. Whichever you prefer, informal dispute resolution in intra-business disputes is less costly and time-consuming than the more celebrated court trial.

In-house dispute resolution programs are used by businesses to resolve inter-office disputes between two employees or between employees and their employers. A recent study revealed that almost 90 percent of Fortune Magazine’s Top 1,000 companies had recent experience with mediation. Mediation was overwhelmingly viewed as a superior method for achieving quicker, less expensive, and more satisfying results, with more direct involvement by the parties. Moreover, nearly 40 percent of corporate in-house counsel revealed they increased their use of in-house mediation in the past 12 months.

Often, corporations use an in-house ombudsman to resolve consumer disputes. An ombudsman is hired by the corporation to ensure the corporation followed its own procedures or by-laws. Though hired by the corporation, the ombudsman’s responsibility is to be impartial and to refrain from advocating for either the corporation or the other party. In addition to consumer disputes, ombudsmen also are used in employee termination situations. For example, if an employee is caught violating an employer policy, instead of waiting for a wrongful termination suit, corporations often use an ombudsman to determine if the employer adequately followed corporate procedures and policy before terminating the employee.

In the competitive economy of the future, the prosperity of corporations and organizations will depend on their ability to resolve conflict and to avoid problems that interrupt business. With today’s pressure on time, commercial transactions easily can become mired in conflict. More so than ever before, dispute resolution is at a premium. Dispute resolution normally arises out of litigation or results in litigation if dispute resolution is unsuccessful. Therefore, dispute resolution can be a strategy your business can use to propel it past the competition. IBI