Millions of businesspeople worldwide rely on e-mail as a fundamental communication tool. Managers use it to organize meetings, coordinate virtual work teams, make announcements — and communicate about disputes. But according to the authors of a recent paper, using e-mail to resolve conflicts carries a major risk: that disputes will escalate to irresolvable levels and even damage senders' and receivers' relationships.The paper is “E-Mail Escalation: Dispute Exacerbating Elements of Electronic Communication.” The authors are Raymond A. Friedman, an associate professor of management at Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management, and Steven C. Currall, the William and Stephanie Sick Professor of Entrepreneurship and an associate professor of management, psychology and statistics at Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Management.Building on previous research, Friedman and Currall propose a new conceptual framework articulating the unique structural properties of e-mail communication and suggesting their impact on the escalation or resolution of conflict. On the basis of their review of sociological literature — such as H. Clark and S. Brennan's analysis of different communication media (“Grounding in Communication,” in L. Resnick, J. Levine and S. Teasley, eds., “Perspectives on Socially Shared Cognition,” Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 1991, pp. 127–149) and J.Z. Rubin, D.G.