The TKI Assessment

How to Prepare for the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument (TKI) Assessment – A Comprehensive Study Guide

Last Updated on October 3, 2022

It has been shown that corporate managers spend about a quarter of their time at work managing different forms of conflict. It can range from handling disagreements over company policies, enforcing rules, negotiating with different companies or their higher-ups, or managing any form of disagreement between workforce members.

If you are in charge of keeping the peace at your place of work, regardless of what level you are working at, you might have had to bud heads quite a few times. Any human resources representative is trained to manage various conflict resolution styles.

But it is no easy task to identify these different conflict styles. There is a resource called the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument assessment, or the TKI, which makes understanding your conflict management style and the conflict behavior of your co-workers far easier.

The TKI test is a self-report questionnaire that helps to identify your conflict modes and how that affects your approach to interpersonal conflict.

Conflict should not be mislabeled as something so severe as fighting, blaming, and insulting one another. In a corporate setting, conflict happens when two or more individuals’ concerns clash with one another. Conflict is not an inherently destructive and dangerous thing, especially if you learn to manage conflict.

Conflict is merely a situation where one person’s concerns are in opposition to the other person’s concerns. Arguments might have resolved conflict in the past. Still, this is not the best way to ensure positive interpersonal relationships between co-workers and group dynamics in a modern work setting.

The TKI assessment identifies five different ways for you to handle conflict in both work and personal life.

A person can manage conflict in more than one way. The TKI assessment maps out your strengths and weaknesses based on the five conflict management modes. Knowing where you fall on this spectrum will help you approach conflict in a suitable way.

The same goes for knowing someone else’s TKI measure. Your colleague might handle conflict in a more assertive way than you and might not respond well to an argument that directly negatively impacts them.

Knowledge is key when it comes to managing conflict. Understanding your own and your colleagues’ strengths is fundamental to reaching a peaceful resolution.

The Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument test will provide you with that knowledge and provide you with the tools you need to help constructively steer conflict situations.

What Is The TKI Assessment?

TKI Headquarters

TKI assessments are multiple-choice personality tests that are used to ascertain your conflict-handling modes. It measures you on two dimensions and assigns you a different percentage score for five different conflict management modes. The test also gives you a description of how to apply yourself best using these conflict modes.

Your behavior in conflict situations is measured and described along two dimensions: assertiveness and cooperativeness. The TKI uses a series of questions to measure where you fall on these scales and then maps you onto a matrix.

The matrix has five points, or modes, that describe different ways to manage conflict. These points are: competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, and accommodating. You will also receive a description of how to use each mode effectively.

The TKI assessment works with five different ways of dealing with conflict. None of them are particularly good or bad. What makes an argument style good or bad is how you use it during the conversation. Conflict is best managed through calm dialogue and by knowing how you best manage it.

Maintaining a business means having a conflict management system that reduces team friction as much as possible. TKI assessments aim to help you improve your organization’s success rate and health. The key to open and constructive conflict management is understanding how your group dynamics interact, which is what the TKI does.

These are all fine and good, but what puts the TKI apart from other conflict measurement tests?

There are many great reasons why the TKI is so popular for workplace management:

  • Time. The 30-item questionnaire takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete.
  • Accuracy. The TKI assessment is prided on its highly accurate results and in how detailed they are.
  • Accessibility. You can administer the test in person or online. Both versions will give you immediate access to results. The written version includes a marking rubric and detailed steps on how to determine your score. The online version will give you your answers immediately.
  • Practicality. The TKI does not tip toe around the subject. Its results are focused on giving you advice designed to streamline conflict resolution in a management setting.
  • Flexibility. This assessment can be used in conjunction with other team-building exercises or as a stand-alone process. The TKI is intended to identify the strengths and weaknesses in a group’s dynamics, but it can also be used to test an individual. If you want to test your conflict modes for private use, the TKI can still help you.

What Do The Results Mean?

There are no right or wrong answers in the TKI assessment. The results will only show where you fall for the different conflict resolution styles. It is possible to receive a high score on more than one style or to have a relatively balanced spread. Your scores do not mean you got any of the questions right or wrong.

At the end of your test, you will receive an analysis that includes a raw score and a percentile score. The percentile score shows you how you did compare to people who scored lower in a mode than you.

The TKI Graph

There are five conflict-handling modes by which you will be measured. Each point falls somewhere on a graph that is measured by two criteria. These criteria are Assertiveness and Cooperativeness.

Your questions are graded on these two scales. As we said earlier, you will be given a percentage score for each of the five modes and an overall percentile score. First, let us look at what each of these two criteria measures. These will be explained broadly because we will then look at each conflict-handling mode in detail.

Assertiveness

Assertiveness measures the degree to which you try to satisfy your own needs during a conflict. It does not mean you are particularly selfish. It is closely related to how you might try to meet your immediate needs or receive support for your ideas.

Cooperativeness

This measures to what degree you are likely to focus on the other person’s needs during a conflict. You might try to help someone meet their own needs before yours, or you can be more receptive to criticism.

The Five Conflict-Handling Modes

The TKI Assessment Graph

Each of these modes is wide and encompassing because they reflect a range of behaviors you may encounter in a conflict situation. An Avoidant mode could both physically evade a confrontation or try to postpone a conversation by speaking around the subject.

You can handle a disagreement in any of these five different ways. Each mode has its benefits and costs, but their benefits shine the brightest when you recognize when to implement a specific style.

Knowing how to handle a conflict mode is one thing, but having the skills to perform according to these modes is a different story. Each mode has its own costs. If your test shows you are not oriented towards a specific mode, then you are more likely to step into the pitfalls of this mode.

1. Competing

This mode characterizes itself as people who have a victory-centric mindset. Competing types are also good at defending their position. The Competing mode lies in the assertive and uncooperative corner of the chart.

Benefits: 

  • A competitive person stands up for their ideas and defends their values.
  • They are quick to act and are great at making decisions on the fly.
  • Competitive people know how to defend their positions from attack.
  • They tend to use debates as a means to test their and others’ assumptions and ideas.

Costs:

  • The in-it-to-win-it mindset places a lot of mental strain on the “losing” party.
  • Quick decisions are not always the best decisions for the situation. They are less likely to discuss plans before executing them.
  • The Competitive type tends to impose their decisions on others. This can lead to a drop in motivation.
  • The winning mindset can drive the competing individual to more provocative actions that could seem underhanded and cruel.

2. Collaborating

This is the type of person that puts the team above anyone else. Collaborating individuals try to find solutions that benefit everyone. The Collaborating mode lies in the assertive & cooperative corner of the chart.

Benefits:

  • The Collaborator puts new suggestions forward that incorporate the goals of each individual in the group.
  • They believe in the open exchange of information and welcome discussions on each course of action.
  • The Collaborator ensures all parties involved reach an agreement and stay committed to their chosen course of action.
  • Their dedication to finding a peaceful solution to the conflict makes it easier to build a trusting relationship with them.

Costs:

  • This mode often takes the longest to reach a conclusion as they spend as much time as possible researching the best possible solution for a situation.
  • Following the Collaborator’s plans means the entire team has to spend a lot of energy on research. The entire group has to be open to conflicting viewpoints.
  • The amount of mental pressure it takes to analyze every detail in a situation can be very taxing and result in peering into one’s personal affairs.
  • Others may try to exploit a Collaborator’s flexibility and openness.

3. Compromising

This mode is as clear as the dictionary definition of its name. This form of conflict management sees that everyone is satisfied by having everyone take a little and leave a little. The Compromising mode is fully balanced as it lies in the middle of the assertive & cooperative chart.

Benefits:

  • This person will ensure that everyone walks away happy without spending too much time planning out the course of action.
  • A compromise can always be reached quickly if everyone is willing to make a sacrifice.
  • This management mode is the fairest of the five as everyone wins and loses similarly.
  • Being able to meet halfway minimizes the amount of strain a relationship is put under.

Costs:

  • A compromise will not completely resolve conflict. Since everyone’s concerns are now compromised, there may be some residual frustration between the parties.
  • A compromise is not always the most effective or optimized solution.
  • The conclusion to a compromise might not entirely reflect the way both parties feel. The peace might seem superficial at best.

4. Avoiding

Ignoring the situation, postponing or sidestepping any conflict, or withdrawing from an incident are the signs of an avoidant conflict-handling mode. The Avoiding mode lies in the non-assertive & uncooperative corner of the chart.

Benefits:

  • Avoiding conflict prevents any of the stress that comes with it.
  • This conflict management mode also saves you the time it would have taken to solve it.
  • You can steer clear of any undue harm by avoiding conflict.
  • Avoidance allows you to better prepare for the conflict or any other matter that needs your attention.

Costs:

  • This mode solidifies hostile behavior among people and drags the conflict out. It can even negatively affect productivity.
  • Avoidance can breed resentment from those whose needs are being neglected.
  • Delays:  Avoiding conflict might buy you time in the short run, but it eventually delays the conflict instead.
  • This mode slowly unravels your communication skills and even makes addressing the issue harder later on.

5. Accommodating

This form of conflict management revolves around your selflessness and has you giving up your own concerns to satisfy another person’s issues. The Accommodating mode lies in the non-assertive & cooperative corner of the chart.

Benefits:

  • Helping someone is its own reward. And sacrifice helps to build relationships.
  • Accommodating another’s needs can settle disputes quickly.
  • This mode is excellent for apologizing in a pinch and helps build up a few favors.
  • This is excellent if you don’t see another way out. Sometimes it’s better to cut your losses and be accommodating.

Costs:

  • You will be the only one making a sacrifice in this situation.
  • You could come off as exploitable if you form a habit of being too accommodating. Be careful not to lose the respect of your peers by buckling too easily.
  • Backing someone else’s decisions all of the time can end with you losing motivation, especially if you do not fully agree with their ideals.

Scoring

Business People high five and smile

Each answer to the multiple-choice questions relates to one of the five conflict modes. Your answers are measured into a raw score that will be compared to the scores of other people taking the exam.

This means the exam values constantly fluctuate depending on previous results. Some trends may begin to occur, but the overall function of the TKI assessment is to measure your skills in correlation to your immediate peers.

What Are The Questions?

The TKI assessment is a short test that can be completed online or in a paper booklet. Both versions have 30 multiple choice questions and can be completed in around 10 minutes.

The main differences are that you have to mark your own questions and that your percentile score is different if you complete the paper version.

Each TKI question gives you two options, either A or B, representing a distinct way of handling a disagreement. Choose the option that fits you best during a conflict scenario.

An example is as follows:

A) I try to work with others for the benefit of a successful outcome.

B) I attempt to postpone issues until I have analyzed them.

The best way to answer these questions is to imagine that no matter what option you choose, someone else will take the immediate opposite course of action. This keeps you in a conflict mindset.

Can You Prepare For The TKI?

When this assessment is used for job applications, the important thing is to match your future employer’s conflict management styles. You can usually get to know them through an interview to see what they expect from you. But from there, you need to know if you can match it.

You can work with sample personality tests to familiarize yourself with how to display these modes. JobTestPrep’s library of tests, personality or otherwise, can help you practice for the TKI.

There is, however, no real way to learn about yourself in preparation for a TKI assessment. What matters is that you answer with the first thought that comes to your mind. Overthinking a personality test can skew the results.

The Benefits Of Taking The TKI Assessment

Students discussing about Assessment

The ultimate use of the TKI assessment is as a learning tool. Once you recognize the five conflict-handling modes, you can learn how to use them in different conflict situations. You can also learn where your weaknesses and strengths lie in these modes.

The TKI also helps build a team’s conflict resolution styles. Opening a constructive dialogue between members will strengthen their overall productivity and relationships.

The mark of a good leader is their ability to reconcile the conflict in a workplace. The TKI assessment is a great source for leadership development in the field of conflict management.

Conflict management is also important to improve your work and home performance. The best way to eliminate barriers in the workplace is to learn how to reconcile differences between your co-workers.

Conflict is a common source of stress and can be detrimental to the group dynamics of your co-workers or family. The TKI assessment offers constructive ways to approach conflict-shattering team-building exercises.

Employee retention is affected by your ability to help manage conflict. Building relationships with your peers is important for improving work productivity.

Final Thoughts

The TKI assessment is an excellent management tool to help build a rapport with your peers at work or home. The TKI helps you identify the five different conflict modes and how you can best use them to settle disputes and disagreements.

The TKI identifies your strengths and weaknesses but teaches you how to approach all forms of conflict you might encounter.

JobTestPrep offers you a range of personality tests that should help you prepare for these tests, especially if you want to appeal to your employer’s management style.

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