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A conflict style inventory is a tool developed to measure an individual's response to conflict situations. This entry reviews several inventories, and compares two of the most commonly used ones, the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument and the Kraybill Conflict Style Inventory.
A number of conflict style inventories have been in active use since the 1960s. Most of them are based on the managerial grid developed by Robert R. Blake andJane Mouton in their Managerial Grid Model. The Blake and Mouton model uses two axis. "Concern for people" is plotted using the vertical axis and "Concern for task" along the horizontal axis. Each axis has a numerical scale of 1 to 9. These axes interact so as to diagram five different styles of management. This grid posits the interaction of task versus relationship and shows that according to how people value these, there are five basic ways of interacting with others.
An early conflict style inventory that was based on this grid was Jay Hall's Conflict Management Survey (Teleometrics International, Inc., The Woodlands, TX, 1973) This instrument never gained widespread use.
The Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument
Soon thereafter came Kenneth W.Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann with their Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (Tuxedo NY: Xicom, 1974). The TKI, as it is sometimes known, put conflict style inventories "on the map" and according to the publisher's website, there are over five million copies published, making it the best known of the conflict style inventories.
The Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode instrument uses the Mouton and Blake axes, and identifies five different styles of conflict: Forcing, Avoiding, Accommodating, Collaborating, Compromising.
Strengths: The TKI is quick to administer and interpret. It takes about 15 minutes to answer the questions, and an hour or so for interpretation by a trainer. There are some interpretation materials helping users identify appropriate use of the styles and to help them become more comfortable with styles they are less familiar with. The TKI is also widely known and is available in English, French, and Spanish versions.
Weaknesses: The TKI is a forced choice questionnaire, which some users find frustrating. It assumes that all users have similar cultural background. Some trainers report frustration among users from minority backgrounds or in use outside the United States. Its interpretation materials are not extensive. Finally, it is pricy. The barebones basic inventory costs $16 per copy in single purchase and $11 per copy in quantities. A detailed interpretation guide for users can be purchased for $10 per copy in orders of ten or more. The facilitator's guide costs $142.
The author's website is: http://www.kilmann.com/conflict.html
Style Matters: The Kraybill Conflict Style Inventory
Like the widely used Thomas Kilmann inventory, the Kraybill Conflict Style Inventory is based on the Mouton-Blake Managerial Grid and identifies five styles of responding to conflict. In its basic version it takes about 15 minutes to take and one to three hours to interpret.
The KCSI gives users two sets of scores, one for "calm" conditions and one for "storm", recognizing that many people's style shifts under high stress.
The KCSI is available in a culturally sensitive version. Users are instructed to identify whether they are from an individualistic (eg: white, Anglo North American) or collectivistic (eg: black, Hispanic, indigenous) culture, and are given slightly differing instructions accordingly.
Strengths: Like the TKI, the KCSI is quick to administer and interpret. Questions are multiple choice which many users seem to prefer. Its cultural sensitivity is a plus. It has extensive interpretation pages, including a section with tips for maximizing effectiveness of each style. Two pages of questions for group discussion support training purposes. Because it is built around the Mouton-Blake axis that is also the basis for the more widely known Thomas Kilmann, the KCSI has a familiar feel for many trainers.
At $3.95 in quantity orders or $5.95 in single purchase, the KCSI is competitively priced. The 22 page booklet includes the inventory and instructions. The supporting website includes a free and detailed trainer's guide.
Weaknesses: The KCSI is a relative newcomer in its full-fledged form, and is less widely known than the TKI. Since it circulated free in an early version for a decade or more, user quantities are unknown, but its publisher estimates 40,000-80,000 users. It has yet to undergo standardization which would make it more useful for research purposes.
The publisher's website with information on the booklet is http://www.RiverhouseEpress.com. A free trainer's guide and numerous essays on conflict style inventories can be found at http://www.riverhouseepress.com/Conflict_Style_Inventory_Resources.htm.
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