No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Psychometrics Spotlight: The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument


In the latest of our series putting the range of psychometric tests under the spotlight we look at the less well-known, yet pleasantly surprising, Thomas-Kilman conflict mode instrument.

Conflict is an inevitable aspect of working life, arising in situations when two or more people’s concerns appear to be incompatible. There are many ways that conflict can be handled, each of which has its own merits. However, the way conflict is managed affects performance, and it is therefore important that individuals are able to resolve matters positively and productively.

Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann developed the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument to help individuals appreciate the different approaches to conflict management and understand their personal conflict-handling style. The instrument is based on the theory that there are five different conflict-handling modes. These are:

Competing: pursuing your own needs at the expense of the other person’s. The goal is ‘to win’.

Accommodating: the opposite of competing – it means neglecting your own concerns to satisfy those of another person. The goal is ‘to yield’.

Avoiding: the conflict is not addressed and therefore neither set of concerns is immediately pursued. The goal is ‘to delay’.

Collaborating: working with the other person to find a solution that satisfies both sets of concerns. To achieve this attention is given to finding out exactly what the needs of both parties are. The goal is ‘to find a win/win situation’.

Compromising: finding an immediate solution that is mutually acceptable and fulfils the needs of both parties at least partially. It differs from collaborating in that some needs may need to be sacrificed in order to have others met. The goal is ‘to find a middle ground’.

Each of these five conflict-handling modes is useful in different situations and none is advocated as the most appropriate way of handling conflict. The effectiveness of each mode varies according to when it is used.

Everyone is capable of using each of these five modes interchangeably but typically use some more readily than others. This can be because that mode has worked well for them in the past or because they are comfortable using it. There is a danger that they can become over-reliant on this and may consequently ignore what could in fact be a more effective method of handling the situation.

For example, a compromising approach can be valuable when a solution needs to be reached quickly, but if this is used regularly, it may be that a better solution that could be attained through a collaborative approach will be missed. Likewise is a person who will go out of their way to avoid a competitive approach and, this becomes routine when they are compromising their own job performance.

The Thomas Kilmann instrument measures the extent to which individuals typically use each of these conflict-handling modes. Completion of the questionnaire should always be followed by a feedback discussion. This allows the individual to discuss their results and can help them to understand the context in which each different mode can be either an advantage or a disadvantage.

The Thomas-Kilmann instrument has many applications. These include:

Leadership development:
As people move into leadership roles they will need to develop the ability to make vital decisions in situations which many involve conflict. The use of the Thomas-Kilmann instrument prepares them for using the different conflict-handling modes successfully.

Performance improvement:
An employee may be hindering their performance if they are using the conflict-handling modes effectively. For example, if they have overly contrasting uses of the competing and accommodating modes they may find that in accounting for other people’s wishes the value that they could bring to the organisation is lost.

Team building:
If all members of a team are inclined to use a competitive mode of conflict handling there may be difficulty reaching decisions quickly and effectively. Using the Thomas-Kilmann instrument with each team member will highlight if this is likely to occur.

Increased employee satisfaction:
When poor conflict management is restricting an employee’s job performance they may ultimately feel demoralised. Discussion of their conflict handling style will make them aware of this and can be the catalyst for developing other modes.

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument is perhaps less well known than other psychometric instruments. However it provides value for individuals, teams and organisations either as a standalone tool or used in conjunction with other tools, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) questionnaire.

For further information, please contact OPP on 08708 728727 or visit the website at

More articles in this series:


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!