Conflict Resolution: the Thomas-Kilmann Model
The Thomas-Kilmann model was designed by two psychologists, Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann, to illustrate the options we have when handling conflict. There are two dimensions in the model. The first dimension, the vertical axis, is concerned with conflict responses based on our attempt to get what we want. Thomas and Kilmann call these the Assertiveness options. The other dimension, the horizontal axis, is concerned with responses based on helping others get what they want. Thomas and Kilmann call these the Co-operativeness options. This creates 5 basic types of response.
The 5 Options of Conflict Resolution
These are the 5 options in conflict resolution in the Thomas-Kilmann model.
1. Competing. The Competing option is at the top left of the model which means you take a wholly assertive and unco-operative approach to resolving the conflict. It means standing up for your rights, defending a position which you believe is correct, or simply trying to beat the other side.
2. Accommodating. The Accommodating option is at the bottom right of the model which means you take a wholly unassertive and co-operative approach. This might take the form of selfless generosity or charity, giving in to another person's orders when you would prefer not to, or yielding to another's point of view.
3. Avoiding. The Avoiding option is at the bottom left of the model which means you take an unassertive and unco-operative approach to the conflict and don't deal with it. Avoiding might take the form of diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue until a better time, or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation.
4. Compromising. The Compromising option is at the centre of the model because it is both assertive and co-operative but only to some extent. It's the approach of "half a sixpence is better than none". Both sides get something but not everything. It might mean splitting the difference between the two positions, some give and take, or seeking a quick solution in the middle ground.
5. Collaborating. The Collaborating option is at the top right of the model and is at the opposite extreme of avoiding. It means being willing to believe that when two parties are at loggerheads, it is possible for both sides to come out with what they want. Collaborating requires developed conflict resolution skills based on mutual respect, a willingness to listen to others, and creativity in finding solutions.
The Choices We Make in Conflict Resolution
Conflict abounds in the workplace. Research shows that each of us spends an average of 2 to 3 hours a week involved in some way in conflict. In the majority of cases, the outcomes are unsatisfactory and lead to fall-outs, disharmony, and distractions from the real purposes of work. The cost in lost productivity and human pain is considerable. That's why models of conflict resolution, such as the Thomas-Kilmann model, are vital to learning how to manage conflict more effectively.
For an 11-page report on a sample manager's conflict style using the Thomas-Kilmann model, click here.
For further articles on Conflict Resolution from Robert Bacal at articles911, including conflict styles and mediation, click here.