"Manage Conflict at Work by Identifying the Cause- We’ve all experienced conflict at work. Most of us get a sinking feeling (“Uh oh, we’re in a fight” or “She’s definitely mad at me”) and we usually do one of two things: either ignore the issue or confront the person. But this isn’t a productive or healthy way to address the problem. You have to pause to understand what’s at the root of the disagreement. There are four main types of conflict: relationship (a personal disagreement), task (disagreement over what the goal is), process (disagreement over the means or process for achieving a goal), and status (disagreement over your standing in a group). Thinking about these categories will help you figure out what’s actually happening when you get into a conflict—even when your disagreement doesn’t neatly fit into a bucket. Once you know what’s causing the problem, you can decide how to address it effectively." Adapted from The HBR Guide to Managing Conflict at Work, by Amy Gallo.
Amy's points are well taken, and are useful as a baseline from which to start the necessary conversation. Throughout my life, in my corporate career, and in my work as a leadership coach, I've encountered many conflict situations. Friends, staff members, and clients would ask me for advice. After listening to their story my first question always was and is "Have you talked to the person you are having the problem with?" Many times the answer is "no" followed by lots of reasons why talking to the other person would not work. Most of those reasons are based on unexplored fear, untested assumptions, and the need to win, or at least not to lose.
The same people who don't think that they can talk with the one and only person they need to speak with, usually spend lots of time talking to everyone else about the problem. Now, getting some feedback is usually a good idea but it doesn't solve the problem.
Not knowing how to handle the tough conversations leads to suffering, break in relationships, loss of sleep, loss of productivity, and sometimes even violence. Many experts have written books, and developed models about the subject but in the end it is a matter of finding the right mentor or coach to explore the "story", and to develop and practice the liberating conversation.
And one last thing: No matter how well you understand the root cause of the issue, the right conversation in the wrong mood is the wrong conversation.