Reading for Leading #15: Identifying the 5 modes of conflict

Identifying the 5 modes of conflict

Reading for Leading is a weekly leadership tip shared every Monday morning as a pithy suggestion, question or reflection. You can find the whole series here.

Conflict is something that all teams encounter and successfully resolving conflict is key to ensuring that everyone continues to feel part of the team – retaining trust, and belief in the shared vision. Thomas and Kilmann have identified two factors that influence our individual approaches to conflict – cooperativeness and assertiveness – resulting in 5 conflict styles.


The 5 styles work as follows:

  1. Competing is assertive and uncooperative. In this conflict mode an individual is willing to use whatever power they have to “win” the argument – whether that’s arguing, witholding resources, pulling rank or something else.
  2. Accommodating is unassertive and cooperative. In this mode the individual is willing to forego their own needs to appease the other person. This can range from obeying a request to do something you’d prefer not to through to charitable actions that are detrimental to yourself.
  3. Avoiding is unassertive and uncooperative. In this mode an individual decides not to deal with the conflict – maybe by postponing meeting to discuss it or withdrawing from the situation in some other way.
  4. Collaborating is both assertive and cooperative.  In collaboration an individual will work with others to try to find a solution that satisfies all parties. This may involve identifying the underlying needs and exploring any differences in viewpoints.
  5. Compromising is moderate in both assertiveness and cooperativeness. A compromise doesn’t dig as deep into the underlying details as collaborating does, but it aims to find a solution that is at least partially satisfactory for all involved.


Which styles do you recognise in yourself and in your team? Are there certain styles that you use with particular people or in certain situations? 

Source of Inspiration: Details of the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode instrument can be found here.


2 thoughts on “Reading for Leading #15: Identifying the 5 modes of conflict

  1. Pingback: 2017 on Social in silico – Social in silico

  2. Pingback: 6 months of Reading for Leading! Top posts so far… – Social in silico

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