Editor’s Note: At Brighter Strategies we offer a variety of assessments aimed at making sure conflict, when it occurs, is useful. This article on the TKI was originally written in 2011 and has been updated.
Conflict happens in every office. You’ve hired the right team, discovered their personality styles and best environments, and now there are challenges and conflicts in the workplace. The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) can help individuals and teams identify their dominant method of handling conflict and how to incorporate other methods as needed and indicated by the type of conflict. TKI is a quick, yet extremely useful and effective, tool to aid individuals and groups in conflict resolution.
After scoring an individual’s responses to 30 statement pairs and determining their ranking (high, medium, and low) in the five modes of conflict (accommodating, competing, compromising, avoiding, and collaborating), an individual’s scores are compared to a sample of 8,000 employed adults so that, for example, a score of 95% means you scored higher than 95% of the sample of 8,000.
The Five Modes
The following is a direct quote from a Thomas-Kilmann sample report that provides a descriptive overview:
“All five modes are useful in some situations: each represents a set of useful social skills. Our conventional wisdom recognizes, for example, that often “Two heads are better than one” (collaborating). But it also says, “Kill your enemies with kindness” (accommodating), “Split the difference” (compromising), “Leave well enough alone” (avoiding), and “Might makes right” (competing). The effectiveness of a given conflict-handling mode depends on the requirements of the specific situation and the skill with which you use that mode.”
A person’s dominant conflict mode is often based on personal values and also on the types of conflict they are most presented with in their day-to-day lives. Everyone can use all five modes. However, most people are predisposed to use one or more over the others.
After the individual receives their profile, the TKI then describes each mode of conflict; when it’s best used and indications when the individual may be overusing that conflict style.
For instance, if an employee scored high in “accommodating,” signs of overuse might be that they feel that their thoughts and ideas are undervalued. Some consequences of underuse might be the perception that they are unreasonable or that they have trouble admitting they are wrong.
The TKI can be especially useful in a group setting. Each member can recognize the patterns of their coworkers. They can then adjust the way they communicate and solve challenges or resolve conflicts with one another. If someone scores high in accommodating, other employees should make sure they are not taking advantage of their conflict mode. If an employee typically uses avoidance in conflict situations, a coworker may be able to guide them and help them recognize that the situation at hand needs to be dealt with, and so on. Ideally, this type of understanding can create a better, more comfortable work environment and a stronger team.
If you’re experiencing unproductive conflict in your work place, you might want to consider the TKI, or another assessment. Assessments can provide a powerful method of exploring typical hard-wired behavior in people and can provide insights into team development.
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After reading and completing this workbook, you will understand team basics, including the definition, types, and natural development. You will complete a simple five-step team-building process, which includes creating the team, clarifying roles, communicating well, collaborating to meet goals, and celebrating team success. If you want to maximize your organization’s effectiveness, choosing to form a team to complete a task is the first step in the right direction.