Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument Workshop

The Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument is one of the most effective conflict management strategies I’ve seen. It is also known as the Conflict Resolution Inventory.

This facilitated activity uses the Thomas Kilmann questionnaire to assess behaviour in conflict situations.

It is based on a model of conflict modes, which enables an analysis of individual styles in particular situations.

Individuals can identify their primary style, and assess the productiveness of that style in the various situations that they encounter.

They then have the choice to continue with that style, or to adopt others if they are more appropriate.

You can download a FREE Powerpoint or PDF of this workshop at the bottom of this page. 

Objectives

  • To create a model and language with which to analyze conflict situations that arise.
  • To develop options for constructively resolving conflicts.
  • For individuals within a team to start addressing unproductive conflict resolution behavior.

Why would you use it?

  • Having a model with which to analyze situations can help the constructive resolution of conflict.

What is the outcome?

  • The Team will have a model and a language with which to analyse any conflict situations that arise, and some options for constructively resolving these conflicts.
  • Individuals within the team may start to address their unproductive conflict resolution modes.

Process

  1. The Facilitator explains the objectives of the process to the Participants that they’ll be considering situations in which they find their wishes differing from those of another person. How do they usually respond to such situations?
  2. The Facilitator hands the Participants the 30 Questions where there are several pairs of statements describing possible behavioural responses.
  3. The Participants consider each pair, and circles the ‘A’ or ‘B’ statement which is most characteristic of your own behaviour.
  4. When every Participant is finished the Facilitator introduces ‘The Five Conflict Modes’ using the slide in this pack.
  5. The Facilitator hands the Participants the Scoring Sheets and asks them to total up their scores in each of the five columns.
  6. The Team then splits into small groups/pairs and each group considers when it might be appropriate to use a particular style and what the pitfalls of each style might be.
  7. The Facilitator asks the groups to report back in plenary and reviews the exercise using the rest of the slides.

Example Questions

To give you a taster of the type of questions you’ll get in the TKI here are 3 examples. Choose A or B which you would be more likely to use…

A – I am usually firm in pursing my goals.
B – I attempt to get all concerns and issues immediately out in the open.

A – I might try to soothe the other’s feelings and preserve our relationship.
B – I try to do what is necessary to avoid tensions.

A – I propose middle ground.
B – I am nearly always concerned with satisfying all our wishes.

How to Score

  • The scores show how the person taking the test faces conflict situations.
  • Their scores can be brought into a graph and measured against other participants.
  • The five conflict modes are represented by the five columns labelled ‘Competing’, ‘Collaborating’, ‘Compromising’, ‘Avoiding’ and ‘Accommodating’.
  • People taking the test get a percentage score for each of the five conflict modes.
  • Every score can be related to the scores of others who have taken the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument in the past.
  • For example someone can get a score of 70% on Collaborating. This means they have scored higher than 70% of others who have taken the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument – i.e. they are in the top 30% on collaboration.
  • If a score falls somewhere between 25% and 75% on a mode, it means they are close to the average.
  • If their score falls below 25% or above 75%, then their use of that mode is higher or lower than most of others who have taken the test.

Conflict Resolution Styles

Graph Showing the Thomas Killman Conflict Resolution Styles

When to use different styles?

Competing

  • Quick, decisive action needed
  • Important but unpopular issues are at stake and where there isn’t “right” way

Avoiding

  • Trivial issues
  • No chance of getting what you want
  • Potential risk of confrontation outweigh benefits of resolution
  • Other better places to resolve the issue

Compromising

  • Moderately important goals but not worth potential disruption of more assertive modes
  • Two equally strong parties committed to mutually exclusive goals
  • Expediency
  • Back up competing/collaborating

Collaborating

  • Both sets of concerns too important to be compromised
  • Needs insights from different perspectives
  • Increases others’ commitment to solutions
  • Long-term major issues

Accommodating

  • Issue much more important to other party
  • To limit damage of continued conflict
  • To bank favors
  • When in the wrong
Thomas Killman When To Use Different Styles

Secret Sauce

  • When you are going through the questions sometimes you see the people doing the TKI will find that neither of the statements feels 100% right. When that happens ask them to select the response that is most likely.
  • It should be remembered that extreme scores are not necessarily bad, since the participant’s situation may require high or low use of a given conflict-handling mode.
  • No one approach is correct. One must tailor their response to the situation. The essential element to realise is that conflict should be understood and managed and not feared.
  • There are also several methods of ensuring that the conflict does not lead to a break down in the group’s ability to work together:
    • Encourage the debate to emerge.
    • Ensure that the debate is kept to an issue and is not personalised.
    • This can be achieved by noting the key issues on a flip chart.
    • Ensure that the debate is kept focused on the future, not in recriminations over past problems.
    • Encourage people to say what they have to say to each other and not have all points addressed through a third party.
    • Avoid premature “taking of sides”.

Free Download Files

About the Author

Nick Martin has more than 15 years experience as a change manager and is the founder and CEO of WorkshopBank.

Leave a Reply 16 comments

John G Reply

I love the Thomas Kilman framework, but have sometimes seen it expressed with some stances (Competition and Avoidance mostly) as being bad. I am glad to see that you recognize the times when these are good places to be.

I tend to use the Importance of Issue (vertical) and Importance of relationship (horizontal) axis however. By referring to agendas I would be concerned that it would lead to debate over the use of agenda as opposed to the value of the tool.

Thank you so much for this!

John

    Nick Martin Reply

    That’s a great point John. I imagine that using those labels on the axis would depersonalise (on the vertical) and personalise (on the horizontal). What outcomes do you get doing it that way if I may ask?

      John G Reply

      Hi Nick,

      First of all there is an appreciation that some conflict is somewhat transactional. An issue needs to be resolved and while the issue is important there is little risk to relationship for stakeholders. For example a new service is being offered and there is a difference of opinion regarding the communication strategy. The relationship is solid and continuing, so on that axis there is no risk and competing (high issue importance to participant)/ avoiding (low issue importance to participant) strategies will lead to decisions on the issue that are backed at least by those competing and don’t result in resistance from those avoiding.

      An example of high relationship importance might be a client complaint about a transaction. We want to maintain the relationship so the accommodating (low issue importance to participant) / collaborating (high issue importance to participant) stances will be more prevalent.

      At this point I’ll toss in a wrinkle, what I believe is the missing axis. It bisects the square from bottom left to upper right and it is time. You mention this in discussing which stances can be used. While collaboration may be a goal it takes time to get there, and competing might feel uncomfortable at times, but it gets to resolution faster.

      I do a lot of volunteer work in community economic development. One of the communities close to me was heavily impacted by the contraction of forestry several years ago, which was really the only economic player for the region. A lot of ideas were discussed to try and get stable, well paying jobs into the community, one of which was uranium mining.

      It was interesting to observe the stances over time that led to an eventual consensus to not pursue the uranium option, based on the vision that community members had of who they were and what they wanted the community to be. If I tried to plot it on the quadrant model from your article it would look like a scatter diagram, dots all over the place. Over time (months) there was a movement towards consensus.

      Sorry, I do go on at times.

      John

beths Reply

I’ve just discovered your website – happily! Thanks for being so generous with your materials and work. It’s such a boost to get some fresh ideas when feeling “stuck”!

Louise Reply

This is great, I too have just discovered your website & when i get an admin day, will contribute something! In the meantime, is there anywhere I can get a copy of the 30 questions? I am running a programme this week & the test will need to be done in the course, analogue style! Thanks !

Lynne Andia Reply

Hi, I’ve been trying to download the assessment and having a difficult time. Can you send it to me? Thank you. Maybe because I didn’t go to Facebook (which I do not have and do not want).

    Nick Martin Reply

    Hi Lynne … good to speak to you just now and glad the email came through in the end … good luck with your session.

Franklin91 Reply

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Maureen Sullivan Reply

Good morning Nick,
I am having difficulties downloading the questionnaire PDF & ppt slides. I am not on Facebook by choice.
I would appreciate it if you could email both of these please.
Your site & resources are superb, Regards, Maureen

Col Sunil Brijkrishan Reply

Hi Nick,
I’d like to download the questionnaire PDF & ppt slides. I do not want them on Facebook.
I would appreciate it if you could email both of these please.
Very interesting material, Nick, Cheers, Sunil

    Nick Martin Reply

    Hi Sunil …there is no option to download them with Facebook … you can just enter your email right on this page and they’ll arrive in your inbox.

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