Five Steps to Resolve a Dispute

Despite best intentions and good business management, disputes can still happen. Whether an issue arises with customers, suppliers, competitors, partners or employees, there are simple steps you can take to minimise the effects of a dispute.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, workplace disputes in 2020 accounted for over 33,500 working days lost.

When it comes to defamation lawsuits, Australia is considered the defamation capital of the world. If a defamation matter cannot be resolved privately, it can potentially cost anywhere from a few thousand to a few hundred thousand dollars, even in the millions, to pursue (depending on many factors).

Disputes can cost you time, energy, work productivity and money.

It literally pays to manage disputes effectively.

So Why Do Disputes Happen?

Disputes can happen for many reasons, including:

+ Different personalities

+ Unresolved issues

+ Competition

+ Poor communication and leadership

+ Unclear responsibilities and roles

+ Bullying, harassment and other unlawful and inappropriate behaviour

+ Reputational harm

+ Malicious intent

Check Out These Five Steps to Resolve a Dispute:

1.Understand Your Dispute

How did the dispute arise? Make a list of factors contributing to the dispute. Remain unemotional and stick to the facts.

– If applicable, review your contract/s. Do you have a written contract detailing each party’s responsibilities and obligations? Are there any clauses relating to contract breaches or dispute resolution processes? Oral/verbal contracts may be harder to prove but are still valid contracts.

– Once you have identified the issues, write down what you would like to have resolved.

– If needed, speak to a relevant third party who can advise objectively on the situation.

2.Contact The Other Party

– Depending on how minor or major the issue is, use this to guide your approach to contacting the other party. A phone call may be sufficient for minor issues whereas an in-person meeting might be preferable for major issues.

– Discuss things calmly and professionally with the other party. Stick to the facts and what outcome you are hoping for so it’s clear what your expectations are.

– Be prepared to negotiate or compromise to reach an agreement.

– Keep a record of all communications and let the other party know.

3.Put it in Writing

– At this stage, if your previous attempts have been unsuccessful to resolve your dispute – consider putting it all into writing.

– This can be drafted as a Letter of Demand or Concerns Notice (Defamation Law). There are many templates available online depending on your needs.

– If you need assistance drafting a legal letter, contact a lawyer to do this for you. They will ensure every aspect is covered and that you are protected to the full extent of the law/adhering to current laws.

– Always keep a copy of any communication.

4.Use a Third Party 

– Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) may be an option for you. ADR is generally quicker and cheaper than going to court and includes mediation, facilitation and conciliation.

5.Go to Court

Ideally, this is a last resort option as court can be costly and time consuming. Once a dispute reaches court, it’s out of your hands as to how it’ll be resolved.

– Court decides how the dispute should be resolved and makes a binding decision or order to that effect.

REMEMBER; At any stage of the Dispute Resolution process, a lawyer can assist you.

Some Handy Resources for Resolving Disputes:


Best Practice Guides for Effective Dispute Resolution


Resolve Disputes

Australian Small Business & Family Enterprise Ombudsman

Options to Resolve a Dispute

State and Territory Small Business Commissioners

Check with the small business commissioner in your state or territory for advice, support and low-cost or subsidised mediation.

At Litton Legal, we are strategic advocates on all aspects of Commercial Dispute Resolution and Litigation. Our Dispute and Litigation team have extensive experience in handling a wide range of disputes Australia wide. 

From debt and asset recovery to insurance, corporate, commercial and consumer disputes (including insolvency litigation), our team has the ability to work with businesses and individuals in pursuing their legal rights. Contact us here.