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Last edited 06 Jan 2022
Disputes vs conflicts
In the 1990 book Conflict: Resolution and Provention, John Wear Burton refers to a dispute as “a short-term disagreement that can result in the disputants reaching some sort of resolution; it involves issues that are negotiable.”
Construction disputes are generally consistent with Burton's definition. They tend to arise between two parties due to a disagreement over a specific issue or situation. Addressing the issue can include establishing responsibility for the contractual consequences associated with it and then coming up with a reasonable solution or settlement.
Burton notes that disputes differ from conflicts, which are “long-term, with deeply rooted issues that are seen as ‘non-negotiable’.” In Analysis of conflict and change in construction projects, Construction Management and Economics by P.D. Gardiner and J.E.L. Simmons, conflict is further defined as “any divergence of interest, objectives or priorities between individuals, groups or organisations, or non-conformance to requirements of a task, activity or process.”
Both of these definitions of conflict are consistent within the construction sector, where these issues can lead to the deterioration of relationships, a breakdown of trust, additional costs and ultimately to breaches of contract and claims for damages.
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