The phrase, “It’s just business, nothing personal” belies the truth that emotions play a significant role in corporate disputes. Whether the conflict surrounds a single contract or an organization’s future direction, it’s essential to remember that there are real people behind the decisions to be made, and they are driven by fear as much as by hope. Taking the time to understand the motivations, concerns, and other human elements driving stakeholders in a corporate dispute can guide you to the right approach to resolution.
There are generally four different approaches to resolving corporate disputes: negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and litigation. Choosing the one that’s right for a given situation often depends on understanding the basis of the dispute. Are objections being raised due to differences in opinions or values, or by financial goals? Are you certain that the issue is based on fact, or might a misunderstanding or mischaracterization have been blown out of proportion? The more you know about what’s behind the argument and the goals of all involved, the clearer your path will be to solving it as well as preventing it from happening again and preserving your business relationships.
Though the four methods of resolving a corporate dispute can be applied to any conflict, each may be better suited to a specific type of situation.
• Negotiation – Negotiation is generally the most direct approach to a business dispute. The parties can either hold formal or informal meetings, with or without legal representation, to speak directly to each other and make offers and counteroffers. Both sides can speak to their goals and grievances. Negotiations work best when both sides hold equal power: If there is an imbalance it is less likely that a mutually agreeable solution will be found.
• Mediation – Mediation involves bringing in a neutral party to listen to both sides and help find a path forward. This is particularly helpful when misunderstandings exist. Rather than being an adversarial process, it allows all parties to speak to the mediator and then have the mediator act as a go-between. It gives all parties a chance to feel heard and to have their desires incorporated into an answer but does so in a way that does not further inflame tensions.
• Arbitration – An arbitration also brings in a third party to listen, but rather than that third party acting to find common ground, they decide as to the right way to move forward based on the evidence and arguments that they hear. It is a shorter, faster, and less expensive mode of resolution than litigation.
• Litigation – Litigation is the answer when all else fails. It takes the matter into the courts, with both sides represented by an attorney and the case being presented in front of a judge or jury. This is the most expensive, most time-consuming, and most emotionally stressful method of resolving a conflict, but it does achieve a resolution.
A seasoned attorney can identify your best options based on the parties involved and their goals. For assistance with a corporate dispute, contact us today.