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Harnessing the Power of Workplace Conflict with TKI Conflict Styles

Conflict is an everyday occurrence in the workplace. Whether it is a difference in views about a process of work, figuring out a breakdown in communication (you may remember I discussed the merits of taking a care-fronting rather than confronting approach a few weeks ago), or a disagreement at management level about how to handle a difficult situation or employee, conflict is commonly seen as being bad for business.

However, this isn’t always the case. Indeed, different points of view and a new take on things can both energize and revitalize the workplace. Harnessing the power of conflict by employing different TKI conflict styles can turn what was a combative situation into a source of change and growth.

How much does workplace conflict cost U.S. businesses?

According to a 2014 State of Enterprise study by AtTask, the enterprise work management organization, office workers spend more than two and a half hours every single week resolving conflict. That’s a huge slice of productive time, and a total cost to U.S. businesses of more than $350 billion.

At its worst, conflict can lead to reduced morale, workplace disharmony, mistrust, and loss of top talent. But it can also lead to:

  • better collaboration
  • more constructive workplace relationships
  • an increase in productive solution finding
  • more creative ideation

Conflict can be harnessed to provide innovative push, and engage and empower employees.

The secret to realizing the benefits of conflict and eliminating the costs is to understand your own TKI conflict style.

What is TKI conflict style?

The Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) is a tool for identifying the way that a person reacts to and deals with conflict. In a similar way to how improving your own emotional intelligence will lead to a more rounded and dynamic leadership ability, so too will understanding your default reaction to conflict.

TKI conflict styles fall into five categories:

1.     Accommodating

A high degree of cooperation, potentially at your own expense. You might work against your own goals: especially effective to promote future relationships, and especially when the other party has greater expertize than you.

2.     Avoiding

Simply put, you are unwilling to address the underlying issue. You walk away, deciding not to help either yourself or the other party to achieve goals. Best used when emotions are running high, though as a long term strategy avoiding should probably be avoided.

3.     Collaboration

Complete cooperation is achieved by both parties to achieve both sets of goals. If you find yourself in a complex situation and need to come up with an innovative solution, this is often the best strategy. Be aware that collaboration also needs complete trust.

4.     Competing

Your main focus will be on reaching your own goals, with little or no regard for the other party. This might be the best approach when fast and decisive action is required, but it does require support to be successful.

5.     Compromising

Regarded by many as similar to collaboration, except without the win/win dynamic. Indeed, by compromising, neither party will achieve their goals – the danger is that a solution proves to be only temporary, and conflict re-emerges quickly.

Know your own TKI conflict styles

When you understand your natural response to conflict, you’ll be able to start measuring how successful it is and in what type of situation it is most suitable. This will further build your emotional intelligence, improving your focus and enabling you to search for more effective conflict resolution strategies.

Contact Forward Focus today to discover how a TKI Conflict Styles assessment and training will develop and embed effective interpersonal skills in the workplace, for leaders, managers, and employees.

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