C reate accountability . This is a conflict prophylactic, since many fights arise from a lack of clarity

C reate accountability . This is a conflict prophylactic, since many fights arise from a lack of clarity over who has the final authority to make a decision. Making sure that roles are well- established and communicated prevents problems from arising.

E ncourage p eop le to m an ag e th e ir ow n co n flic ts . Tell employees to work out conflict at the level it happens, instead of pushing it up the organizational chain. Doing so will give people confidence that they are capable of handling these issues on their own. “It doesn’t help the culture of our organization if I drop in and fix the problem and get back out,” Bjerknes says. “We have 500 employees. It’s not possible for me to fix all the problems.”

After people address their own conflicts, the manager or department leader should follow up to make sure not only that the immediate problem has been solved but also that the root cause has been addressed, Grenny says.

P rov ide tra in in g . HR can help people learn the skills they need to handle conflict by sending them to courses or recom­ mending helpful books. Conflicts tend to become emotionally fraught when someone chooses not to focus on the issue at hand but rather to question another person’s competency, autonomy or integrity. Bjerknes advises people to choose the right time to have a difficult conversation and to prepare in advance the three most important things they want to say about the conflict.

“My objective is to be a good coach,” he says. “At the end of the day, the coach is not out there playing. You hope they will use the things you’ve taught them.” DO

Tamara Lytle is a freelance writer based in the Washington, D.C., area.

July/August 2015 HR Magazine 31

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