Managing Conflict at Work – Part II

| February 11, 2017 | 1 Comment

ConflictI have the good fortune to sit on a number of community boards. Generally speaking, folks on these boards are not passive observers. The organization means something to them. They care about the decisions and outcomes. This dynamic can make for some pretty passionate discussion. Often these interchanges result in better decisions and greater commitment. Sometimes, however, they can result in dysfunction. People don’t feel they’ve been heard, some are viewed as obstructionist – unwilling to compromise. The meetings and communications are ineffective, resulting in unresolved issues and bad feelings.
So, what do we do? First, let’s look at a framework that defines 5 different ways in which people respond to conflict. The Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument is a great resource for this analysis. Once we understand our general tendency towards a particular style, we can begin to develop skills that allow us to more effectively use different modes that are more productive. The TKIchart on our right displays the Thomas-Kilman Conflict Modes. You’ll notice the grid is based on the level of assertiveness and the level of cooperativeness.

There are positives and negatives to all of the modes. Overuse or underuse of a mode will often result in negative consequences. Here are two examples:

The Competing Mode is usually represented by:
Quick action
Making unpopular decisions
Standing up for vital issues.

Overuse can result in:
Low empowerment
Lack of feedback
Surrounded by Yes people

Underuse can result in:
Delayed action
Withholding of contributions

The Accommodating Mode is usually represented by:
Showing reasonableness
Creating goodwill
Keeping peace
Allowing others ownership

Overuse can result in:
Loss of contribution
Restricted influence

Underuse can result in:
Lack of rapport
By the book reputation
Inability to yield

Each Mode has value. For example the Avoiding Mode leaves unimportant issues alone. The Collaborating Mode is able to bring perspectives together and the Compromising Mode is able to create temporary solutions. The key for managers, leaders and team members is to 1. know their tendencies, 2. develop skills in areas that are not their norm and 3. have the ability to evaluate the circumstances and determine the best Mode for the situation at hand.

Your Skill + Situation You Are In = Choosing the best Conflict Mode

Often times we resent folks who have styles that we view as opposite to our own. If we take the time to understand each other’s style, we are less likely to personalize the behaviors. As stated by Kenneth Thomas, “Understanding the positive intentions and contributions of each style reduces resentments over style differences and makes it easier for team members to listen to each other. They can then learn from one another’s insights.”

For new subscribers, you may want to view Managing Conflict at Work – Part I at

LeadersCove would be delighted to provide the TKI Conflict Mode Instrument to your team along with a facilitated workshop where team members can learn, share and have a few aaha’s and chuckles about their styles.

Next time we’ll take a look at the types of conflict.

Until then, take care, Julia


Category: Conflict Management, Newsletters


About the Author ()

Julia Hill-Nichols, SPHR, is the founder of LeadersCove, LLC. With over 30 years experience in operations and human capital management, Julia is gifted in the art and science of bridging strategic imperatives and a company’s human capabilities—executing for success, meeting bottom-line objectives and enlivening the people who are the organization’s lifeblood.

Comments (1)

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  1. Rick Early says:

    Thanks Julia, this is a great reminder that we all need some type of plan even in what feels like the simplest things we may do.

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