Appreciating Differences - Jack Falt - Ottawa area, Ontario, Canada

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Booklet Review by Jack Falt

Thomas, Kenneth W, & Gail Fann Thomas, Introduction to Conflict and Teams: Enhancing Team Performance Using the TKI, Palo Alto, CA: CPP, 2004, ISBN - none, 44 pp.

This booklet is intended as a handout resource to be given at a TKI (Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument) workshop. The TKI is a measure of conflict-handling modes. It is helpful in team building, and to help established teams become aware of their conflict styles, and to use them more effectively. Conflict is inevitable and to a certain extent necessary. Since no two people have identical opinions, there is bound to be conflict. It is not possible to eliminate conflict. The task is to use the conflict creatively to help arrive at the ideal solution.

Even thought you may not be qualified to administer the TKI, there is a lot of information in the booklet that make it very useful to facilitators, team members and team leaders.

There are two dimensions to consider when examining conflict styles: assertiveness and cooperativeness. Placing these dimensions of a grid shows five main clusters of conflict styles:
1. Competing (high assertiveness - low cooperativeness)
2. Avoiding (low assertiveness - low cooperativeness)
3. Accommodating (low assertiveness - high cooperativeness)
4. Collaborating (high assertiveness - high cooperativeness)
5. Compromising (medium assertiveness -  medium cooperativeness)

Like many other areas of personality, we tend to use one primary conflict style, especially when we are under stress. Being aware of this may help us turn to another style that is more useful in a particular situation. Team leaders and members are going to be more effective if they are skilled in all five styles and can use them appropriately when the situation arises.

The booklet has a number of diagrams listing various characteristics of conflict styles, both those that are helpful and those that should be guarded against. Also, there are two page descriptions of each individual conflict style and how they tend to deal with the other four styles.

Besides having an individual style, the team as a whole has a style. There are two page descriptions of each of the five team conflict styles. These list the challenges and remedies of each team conflict style.

There are also three exercise sheets: personal description of conflict style, dominant styles of each team member, and action implications for the team.

Over all, I recommend this booklet as one that everyone should read. Everyone should be aware of the dynamics of conflict within a group. This booklet does that well in a very readable form.

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