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Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode: What's Good About Competing?


When people read the results of the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), they can jump to the conclusion that competing is a poor style. In fact, each of the 5 styles works well in some situations and poorly in others. Competition is useful in some situations.

For example, in a crisis, quick, decisive action is needed. The Japanese are famous for their collaborative decision making style. This system works wonders in designing cars, but fails when an earthquake strikes, as in 1995 in Kobe. It took days to get relief supplies to the victims. A top-down pyramid, run with a competing style, is more efficient in such situations.

Another time when the competing conflict style is useful is when unpopular actions need to be taken. Closing a business, firing people, and cutting budgets frequently cannot be done by building consensus or compromising. Sometimes tough decisions have to be made and carried out. In such instances, this style may be the only choice a person has.

A third instance when this style is appropriate is when you know you’re right. You might need to be careful about this one. If the issue at stake is vital to your organization, and a misstep could be costly, sticking to your position might be the best way to help. You likely will have to vigorously defend your views, yet it might be crucial that you do so.

Of course, there are disadvantages to every style, which we'll cover in other newsletters.


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