Is your organisation ready for a serious internal dispute?

Have you protected your organisation against damaging conflicts?

 Is your organisation ready for a significant internal dispute? Or does your dispute resolution process need updating?

Many organisations, especially those started or run by a small, committed group of people who know each other well, do not prepare adequately for possible conflict that may occur in the future. Other organisations’ needs may have changed over time, with their previous policy no longer being sufficient for the new circumstances.

A dispute resolution policy is not a magic cure for serious organisational dysfunction, and usually cannot prevent a truly disgruntled party taking the matter to court if they have a right to do so. However, many disputes can be resolved more quickly, cheaply and harmoniously using a good policy and process which is followed consistently.

Simple tips for improving your dispute resolution policy

  • If your organisation does not have a dispute resolution policy, create one! Make sure that key decision-makers sign off on the policy and that members, stakeholders or clients approve the policy if the organisations’ circumstances or governing documents require it.
  • Organisations often choose a two-step process: a more informal review by an appropriate person, then a formal appeal to an independent person or body.
  • People and bodies chosen to resolve disputes should be both independent and seen to be independent by everyone involved.
  • Give people accused of wrongdoing a clear explanation of the case against them, and the chance to present their side of the story to the decision maker.
  • Make your policy easy to understand and easy to find, and follow it consistently.

Some common options for dispute resolution

  • Disciplinary or dispute resolution committees. For example, a disciplinary committee hearing appeals against membership termination might be constituted of members; a committee tasked with solving disputes between a manager and a client might be drawn from representatives of staff, the managing body, and a client stakeholder group.
  • Contractual requirements that disputes be referred to a mediator, arbitrator or other professional person before a party can take the matter to court. This could be written into employment contracts, membership applications and governing documents.
  • Final decisions at the discretion of the controlling body. Where the founding group wants to maintain strong control over the direction of the organisation, leaving key decisions at their sole discretion can achieve this goal. However, this will not solve internal divisions in the group, and depending on how it is used, could lead to abuse of the power.

Things to remember

  • Dispute resolution policies are not appropriate in cases of abuse or other criminal acts, which should be referred to the authorities. An exception to this may be where the wronged party is the organisation itself. Depending on what has happened, the organisation may be able to choose to settle the matter privately.
  • You should always check to make sure that your chosen process is permitted under the organisations’ rules and governing documents, and any applicable laws.

More practical help with running your organisation can be found at and

For specific advice on choosing a dispute resolution process that is best for your organisation, feel free to call us on (07) 3837 3600.

Disclaimer: This article provides an overview only of the factors and options to be considered in creating and maintaining a dispute resolution process, and in the interest of brevity, it is not all inclusive. It should not be considered to be legal advice. You should obtain legal advice for your or your organisation’s specific circumstances rather than relying on general information.