Thomas Kilmann Conflict Instrument

The Thomas Kilmann Conflict Instrument was developed as a tool to help people in conflict. It is designed to assess an individual’s behavior in a conflict (where the concerns of two people seem incompatible).

The instrument describes behavior along two dimensions – assertiveness and cooperation.  With assertive behavior we are looking to met our own needs  and with cooperation we are looking to meet the needs of others.  These two dimensions can be graphed showing where someone’s style typically falls.

There are five styles:

a) Competing – high on assertiveness and low on cooperation.

b) Accommodating – low on assertiveness and high on cooperation.

c) Avoiding – low on both assertiveness and cooperation.

d) Collaborating – high on both assertiveness and cooperation.

e) Compromising – medium on assertiveness and cooperation.

This test can be taken online, or in AB if you are part of a corporation, you can check out the website where you can discuss ordering the test for a group.

I use this instrument in conflict coaching as I find that people can easily relate to the categories and it helps them to understand how their style is perceived by others (e.g. If someone is high on competition, they are trying to get tasks done quickly, defending a position, standing up for rights and often feel highly responsible for others). However they can be perceived as pushing ahead without considering the effects of decisions on others etc.  Someone whose style is avoiding doesn’t want a lot of conflict, so they don’t easily engage in situations where there is debate.  They are trying to keep their own peace of mind, however may be perceived as not standing up for themselves and trying to withdraw or postpone an issue.  Flexibility in using styles can be very helpful.

Each style has its own place depending on the task that needs to be done, the relationships that are important/not important and the power in the situation.   E.g. if there is an emergency situation in a building, a person high in competing can address this situation quickly and clearly, removing everyone from the hazard.  This is a time for action and this style works well.

Another example would be redesigning a company’s website. This ideally would involve representatives from all areas of the company that use the website or deal with customers/clients who use the website.  They may not all be equally involved in the final decision but input should be gathered.  This is more of a collaborative style of interacting.  Collaboration takes time and is very useful for complex decisions where there will be multiple impacts.

Here is an example of conflict styles regarding a decision of where to go on vacation.

Party A – wants to go to Mexico; Party B – want to go to Iceland

A competer would say “I want to go to Iceland.  I’m going to book the tickets (task is important and right now they are not considering the relationship to be of equal importance).

A collaborator  would say “I’m thinking about going to Iceland.  Let’s sit down and discuss my idea and also what ideas you have about where you would like to go. (Both task and relationship are important – why did each person choose that place?).

A compromiser would say “Ok. I’ll go to Iceland this year and next year I would like us to go to Mexico)” (task and relationship of medium importance, give and take….)

An accomodator would say “Sure if you want to go to Iceland, we’ll go there (relationship is important and pleasing the other person).

An avoider would say “I’m too busy right now to talk.” (they need time to think on things, no neither task nor relationship are initially important, ask them when they can sit down).

It is interesting and fun to take the test and see how you score.  There is also information online about the styles and youtube videos as well.  Think of either work or personal life when you take the test as your style may be different in those situations.



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