Like conflict, e-mail is here to stay. It has the ability to quickly and cost-effectively facilitate communication within an organization, and it offers the power to help move an idea from conception to reality. How this power is harnessed by senior executives ultimately determines whether electronic communication functions as an indispensable tool for effectively managing disagreement or as a divisive breeding ground for conflict, full of opportunities for subversive and culture-cracking behavior.
When used appropriately, e-communication can serve the purpose of facilitating conflict resolution. Consider, for example, how one culinary union used online mediation during its recent contract negotiations with two major convention centers in Chicago. According to labor counsel Stuart R. Korshak, a partner in the San Francisco-based law firm of Korshak, Kracoff, Kong and Sugano, the two sides reached out to each other via a network of computers and customized software that federal mediators used to help solve labor disputes. Through a specially designed Web site, both the convention center owners and the union were able to view master proposals, the tentative agreements, each side's notes, lists of open issues, and other agreements for the purposes of comparison and to participate in a chat line. Although the negotiations certainly were not easy, they proceeded without the usual e-mail scud-missile attacks and collateral damage that frequently accompany contract negotiations. In fact, agreement was reached partly because of electronic communication. 
An important step for senior executives to take toward making e-mail an ally of the top team's effort to manage conflict effectively is moving to change the e-mail paradigm. The same rules and protocols that apply to real-life conflict resolution need to be incorporated into the organization's e-mail etiquette ”that is, no subterfuge, no veiled barbs or weasel wording, and no triangulation. In other words, openness, candor, and depersonalization should be exercised during electronic encounters, exactly as they are in team meetings.
As with managing conflict in real time, it is equally important in virtual time to break through those barriers that interfere with effective communication. Recipients should engage in active reading and responding. Specificity is vital : "Here's what I'm getting from your e-mail. Here's what I see as the next steps. Do you agree?"
Despite its challenges and pitfalls, e-mail can become an important resource for top-team members to send and receive clear messages from one another, confront issues fairly and openly, and keep everyone focused on winning where it counts ”that is, against competitors in the marketplace .
 Brenda Palk Sunoo, "Hot Disputes Cool Down in Mediation," Workforce , vol. 80, no. 1, January 2001, p. 49.