Leading employees in one‐to‐one dispute resolution

Fodhla McGrane, John Wilson, Tommy Cammock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Leaders are challenged with the efficient and effective management of their own and their employees’ disputes. These are often managed inadequately using “fight”, “flight”, or management intervention. This paper aims to present the findings of a study into an effective alternative, “one‐to‐one dispute resolution”. The method involves two employees resolving their dispute through face‐to‐face communication and without direct intervention by management.

Using the Critical Incident Technique, incidents of one‐to‐one dispute resolution (n =249) were reported by 88 employees. The contents were analysed, and skill‐related findings were validated using a questionnaire (n =106).

The findings are presented in a descriptive model of the skilful process of one‐to‐one dispute resolution. The model is built on eight skill‐sets that were central to the dispute resolution process.

Research limitations/implications
How and when to effectively coach employees in the use of one‐to‐one dispute resolution, and the resulting personal and organisational outcomes, need to be examined. In addition, research into the practical application of the model, and in specific organisational contexts, is required.

Practical implications
The study highlights the potential for more employees (including both the leaders and the led) to effectively “face” their own disputes without using “fight” or “flight”. It challenges those leaders, who often act as third‐party interveners, instead to coach their employees in the one‐to‐one resolution of disputes, while modelling the method themselves.

Employees are offered a research‐based model of dispute resolution that differs from problematic models in the dispute resolution literature and skills‐training programs. A workable alternative to the methods of fight, flight and intervention is provided.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-279
JournalLeadership & Organization Development Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Jun 2005


  • Dispute resolution
  • conflict resolution
  • leaders
  • workplace
  • management skills


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