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Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode (TKI): What's Wrong with Avoiding?


As with each conflict management style, avoiding has advantages and disadvantages. The challenge is to know when to use each of the five styles for greatest effect. This time we'll discuss the downside to using the avoiding style to resolve conflict.

The first item to note is avoiding doesn't resolve conflict. It remains, to grow and eventually to erupt again, perhaps in a more serious form. Avoiders often know the problem is still there, but they hope it will go away on its own. Rarely does that happen. When dealing with other people, important issues rarely become unimportant. While it can occur, it's more likely to continue to bother the other person. Many avoiders passionately dislike the confrontation, harsh words, and bad feelings conflict can release, so they do everything they can to prevent that from happening. Again, it's rare that this tactic will lead to success. Instead, the avoiders often carry around bad feelings inside them for a great length of time. The paradox is that if they were to bring these feelings out into the open, the potential ill will would likely be rather brief, at least compared to carrying around suppressed feelings for a long time.

Stereotypes are often sustained by avoiding. Without the chance to discuss differences in the open, people can make assumptions about others, which can frequently be quite off the mark. If the work group spends much time avoiding one another, work is surely going to suffer. How can you get things accomplished if you're avoiding others on the team?

Resentment is likely to grow among team members who are being avoided. People will notice they are being avoided. Few people appreciate such treatment. Declining work relationships are highly probable. Important issues might not be addressed as people attempt to avoid speaking out on the really substantive issues. Concurrently, delays might result from failing to address items that require attention. Delays increase frustration, take up even more time, and can ruin team morale and initiative.

Again, each style can be useful in certain situations and counterproductive in others.


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