Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument

I have talked previously about self-assessment and the popular StrengthsFinder in particular, but wanted to highlight a lesser known tool: the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI). While I celebrate the focus on the the positive provided by StrengthsFinder, I find the TKI to be much more valuable for it’s attempt to tackle the difficult subject of how we handle conflict.

The TKI is very similar to StrengthsFinder in that it asks you to weight a pair of statements. It is far less intense however, with only 30 questions compared to the 200 of StrengthsFinder. The questions are well designed so that both options are socially desirable. It can be easy to think of things related to conflict as being bad or a problem so this cuts out the ability to game the assessment.

Upon completing the questions you will receive a report that gives you a percentile breakdown as well as the number of choices you made for five different categories:

  • Competing: this is an assertive and uncooperative, power-oriented mode. Someone in this mode puts their own agenda ahead of others and will use any means to achieve it.
  • Collaborating: this is both assertive and cooperative. Someone in this mode will work with others to find a solution that can satisfy everyone.
  • Compromising: this is a middle ground between being assertive and cooperative. This is in many ways the ideal state to strive to.
  • Avoiding: this is unassertive and uncooperative. This is the classic case of someone who avoids conflict and will not bring up issues that might result in it.
  • Accommodating: this is unassertive and cooperative. In most ways this is the opposite side of competing. Someone in this mode will sacrifice their own agenda for someone elses.

Conflict Matrix

As with StrengthsFinder, simply knowing where you fall on this spectrum might be of tremendous value. In my case, there was no surprise when I fell in the 97th percentile in competing (something I’m sure anyone who has spent much time with me would agree with). However, what was of great value for me was the rest of the information in the report. It outlined cases where each of the 5 categories is useful and some questions to ask about the style.

The information in the report is really supplemented by the book, Introduction to Conflict and Teams, which I highly recommend getting if you think about taking the TKI or using it for a team. It has a wealth of information about each style. There are clear sections outlining how someone in a particular style views other styles and how they are viewed in return. Also key points for dealing constructively with other styles are provided.

While my being far into the competing spectrum wasn’t a surprise, how helpful the tips for dealing with others styles really was. While it might not be obvious where someone else falls (unless you have taken it as a group and shared the results which I think is the most impactful thing to do) you can certainly guess at which might be most applicable. Now that I have a framework for both conceptualizing this and some guidelines in how best to interact, I’ve found myself to be a much better team member and much happier in my interactions with others.


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