Quick and fair conflict resolution is important in organizational disputes, and sometimes it’s best to bring in a third party to resolve them. In this lesson, you’ll learn about third-party conflict resolution and the three different methods that can be used.


Third-party conflict resolution involves the use of a neutral third party to either help in the resolution of a dispute or to resolve the dispute. Disputes within organizations can be resolved by the use of a third party in three different ways. Each approach has certain advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice for you to use will depend on the particular circumstances of the dispute.


Mediation is the use of a neutral third-party to help the disputing parties resolve the dispute on their own. A mediator will not resolve the dispute for you, but she will help facilitate a discussion between you and the person with whom you are having a problem, in hopes that you and the other person can find a solution together.

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Mediation is often the best first choice when you decide you need the help of a someone else. Mediation is a private affair. Most people and organizations don’t want their dirty laundry aired out for all to see. Additionally, a mediator will not make a decision for you, which allows you and the other person to remain in control in resolving your dispute.

A resolution that is voluntarily agreed to by the disputing parties is usually the best type of resolution because everybody leaves the resolution with something, even if it’s not everything they wanted. This is especially helpful if the disputing parties will have to work with each other in the future. Finally, mediation is not a dead end; if it fails, you can move to other options that we will discuss.


Arbitration is a process where a neutral third party is brought in to arbitrate – or resolve – your dispute. Parties that fail to resolve their disputes in mediation will often seek arbitration. Unlike in mediation, the arbitrator makes a decision resolving the dispute. Unlike mediation, arbitration will always bring an end to the dispute so long as it is binding, meaning that both parties are required to comply with the decision.

However, unlike mediation, many arbitrations end up with winners and losers. It’s great if you’re a winner, but not so much if you are the loser. Consequently, arbitration is a riskier approach unless you are willing to live with completely losing. If not, you should really attempt to succeed at mediation where both sides can win. Finally, like mediation, arbitration can be done in private away from the prying eyes of the public.


Litigation is the final third-party resolution process we will discuss in this lesson. Litigation is probably the most familiar form of dispute resolution. It involves filing a lawsuit and having your dispute resolved either by a judge or a jury. Like arbitration, litigation will resolve the dispute and there will generally be a winner and a loser.

You may have some extra protections in court because of certain rules of evidence and procedures to protect the rights of disputing parties. Additionally, judges are very well trained in trying cases and applying legal principles to facts.

Of course, you will usually have a lawyer represent you in court. While a lawyer can represent you in mediation and arbitration, a lawyer is particularly effective in his home turf: the courtroom. The biggest downside to litigation is it is extremely expensive and often a very public affair. Consequently, you probably only want to seek resolution in court if there is a lot of money at stake or the damage to the organization due to the dispute could be immense, such as a dispute regarding control of a company between the only two owners.

Lesson Summary

Sometimes you simply cannot resolve disputes without the help of another person. Three types of third party conflict resolution include mediation, arbitration, and litigation.

  • Mediation is often the best first choice because it can be done privately, and the resolution is brought about by the agreement of the disputing parties with the help of the mediator.
  • Arbitration is another choice available to you and may be a good option if you need someone to resolve the dispute for you and still want to keep it out of the public’s eye.
  • Litigation is probably the choice of last resort when you can’t resolve a dispute. Litigation is undertaken in public and is expensive. However, if there is enough money at stake or the magnitude of the damage being created by the dispute is great enough, litigation may be the best choice given its built-in protections for both parties.