How To Resolve Contract Disputes
- Don't let disputes drag on longer then absolutely necessary. All disputes get resolved one way or another. But at what cost? Squabbling over minor details that have little or no impact on what you are trying to achieve can be costly. These costs are often not just financial. Disputes that descend into acrimony can have long-lasting negative affect on future relationships and damage any goodwill that may exist.
- Leave anger and frustration at the door. Too often disputes that could be settled with a minimum of fuss spiral out of control because emotions take over and objectivity is lost. Decide quickly if personality clashes exist and deal with them. Either change the person negotiating on your behalf or call in a neutral 3rd party to act as chairman/referee.
- Make sure that everyone has the same understanding of the contract being disputed. I am amazed how often it is the interpretation of a contract clause and not the clause itself that is the issue.
- Control the grievances. Get all parties to agree exactly what the dispute is, then in order of priority, break the dispute down into a list of individual points (do not refer to them as demands).
- Accept that you will have to give something to get something. At this point I prefer to give ground on any points that are easily resolved/ conceded. Some very effective managers I have met prefer to trade each point as it arises. The strategy being to trade one or more minor points for a more important one.
- Don't underestimate the power of informal approaches. Good leaders have the ability to see problems coming and use key personnel to settle disputes before they arise. Even when in the throes of negotiation and informal approach to an influential third-party can help things.
- Agree something. Any agreement no matter how small can have a big psychological impact en everyone involved. Getting small agreements early in discussions puts a positive spin on things and generates momentum.
- Remember there is life after the negotiation. Keep things professional and that the end of the dispute act gracefully.