The TKI (Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument)

Thomas-Kilmann maintain and many experts agree, that conflict is a natural part of the interaction between people. That will always be the case, because individuals will never have exactly the same expectations and desires. The TKI assessment is self-scoring and only takes about fifteen minutes to complete. As with most psychological tests the key is in the interpretation and feedback materials which will income and guide the user to learn about the most appropriate uses for the different conflict handling modes.

I think it would be fair to agree with the mainstream academics and say that the TKI has been the leading conflict resolution assessment for more than thirty years and unlike many other instruments does not require any special qualification to administer it.

It would be fair to say it’s mainly used by HR and Organisational development consultants as a door opener to get people talking about difficult issues at work, or to start discussions relating to learning about conflict handling. According to Thomas-Kilmann over 7,000,000 copies of TKI have been published since 1974 and it’s available in a variety of languages.

The TKI was designed to measure the behaviour or likely behaviour of an individual during conflict situations. The test measures and describes the individuals behaviour in two dimensions:

  • Assertiveness – How far does the individuals go to satisfy their own concerns.
  • Cooperative – How far does the  individual go to satisfy the other person’s concerns.


The two dimensions define the five different modes of response to conflict situations in the workplace, they are:

  • Competing –  This is assertive and uncooperative – in this case the individual pursues their own concerns at the expense of the other person. This is very much a power mode, where the individual will use the power that seems appropriate to win their own position and try and win.
  • Accommodating – Unassertive and cooperative – the complete opposite of competing. Neglecting their own concerns to satisfy the other individuals position.
  • Avoiding – Unassertive and uncooperative – the individual does not pursue their own concerns nor the concerns of the other person.
  • Collaborating – Both assertive and cooperative – the complete opposite to avoiding, attempting too work with others to find a creative solution that satisfies their concerns.
  • Compromising – Moderate in assertiveness and cooperation – find some mutually acceptable solution that partly satisfies both parties.

Each of us is capable of using all five conflict-handling modes. It is true to say that none of us can be labelled with just one technique, we are all capable of using all of the above methods of conflict resolution. Some people will, however, use some methods more than others and this use can be down to either practice or temperament. TKI is simply a means to measure the individuals mix of conflict-handling techniques.