Believing that most people have about 15 percent control over their work situations, the Army asks everyone, no matter their rank, “What’s your 15% of the problem?” “Where do you have freedom to act?”

Why My 15% Matters

No matter what type of organization you work in, adopting a My 15% approach demonstrates personal resolve to deal with workplace conflict, in positive ways.

My 15% is a reality check on the challenge of changing personal habits, and shifting the dynamics of workplace relationships, for the better.

My 15% aligns with the ‘unconditionally constructive’ approach advocated for in that interest-based negotiation bible, Getting to Yes.

My 15% is doable.

The My 15% Rule

From the U.S. Army’s Applied Critical Thinking (Training) Handbook:

Most people have about 15 percent control over their work situations. The other 85 percent rests in the broader context, shaped by the general structures, systems, events and culture in which they operate. The challenge rests in finding ways of creating transformational change incrementally: By encouraging people to mobilize small but significant “15 percent initiatives” that can snowball in their effects. When guided by a sense of shared vision, the process can tap into the self-organizing capacities of everyone involved. It doesn’t matter if you’re a General Officer or an enlisted soldier, a Senior Executive or a member of the team. You still have only your 15 percent. Where do you have freedom to act? What’s in your 15%?

Believing that good ideas can come from anywhere (including the Army), I see My 15% as a resource, adaptable to any problem-solving context in which individual accountability plays a factor. My 15% is another tool for your conflict management toolkit.

Your 15%  

As a workplace leader, here are three ways you can do your part, your 15%, as a conflict manager:

1. Increase Self-Awareness – Yours and Others

Gaining awareness of one’s behaviours and ‘hot buttons’ is fundamental to increasing individual conflict competency, and building a conflict competent workplace. “It’s great to see how Jim has progressed, in understanding his own behaviours, and how they impact others on the team.”

2. Have Difficult Conversations

Conversations change us. As a leader, when conflict arises, you are responsible for ensuring the difficult conversations take place (even if you’re not actually facilitating them, yourself), and that they lead to productive outcomes; “I would never had thought it possible, yet bringing the two of them together, they learned more about each other, and found their common ground, for working together.”

3. Guide Others

Serve as a role model through your actions. Culture starts at the top. Coach. Mentor. “Sara has really found her management groove. She is such a role model. She truly lives our organization’s most valued behaviours, through her support of others.”

Conflict may be inevitable. How you deal with it isn’t.

Do your bit!

Ben ZieglerGuest blogger Ben Ziegler is a Civil Roster mediator who is on a mission to enable individuals and organizations to fully engage in, and benefit from open communication, collaborative action, and a culture of fairness. He is an independent Workplace Conflict Management and Fairness Specialist. Find out more about Ben’s busy practice in Victoria and as an Online Dispute Resolution Specialist at