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Navigating Workplace Conflict: A Deep Dive with Ralph Kilmann

by | Jan 5, 2024 | Asking For a Friend Featured, By Karin Hurt |

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When Navigating Workplace Conflict, Start with the System

“At least 80% of the behavior in organizations is driven by the systems, not personal preferences. So if you eventually switch out the people and bring in new people into the same situations, within 3 months they’re having the same conflicts and the same conversations.”
– Ralph Kilmann

We’re kicking off the new year with a very special series on navigating workplace conflict and collaboration with the world-renowned researcher on conflict Ralph Kilmann. Ralph is co-founder of the TKI Assessment and author of several game-changing books, including Mastering the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Instrument and Creating a Quantum Organization.

A Deep Dive into Navigating Workplace Conflict and Change

Navigating Workplace Conflict

The Genesis of Conflict Expertise (00:03)

Introduction to Ralph Kilmann, renowned for his five-decade-long work in understanding and navigating workplace conflict. His journey, influenced by his parents’ escape from Nazi Germany, taught him the value of respecting differences, laying the groundwork for his future contributions.

Kilmann’s Academic Path to Conflict Resolution (00:49)

Exploration of Kilmann’s academic journey at Carnegie Mellon and UCLA, where he met Ken Thomas. This partnership led to the creation of the TKI assessment, a revolutionary tool for measuring people’s behavior in conflict situations, beyond their personal biases.

Evolution of the TKI Assessment (02:02)

Insight into how the TKI assessment evolved to address social desirability in responses, paving a new path in understanding conflict. This instrument challenged existing notions by providing a more accurate reflection of how individuals engage in conflict.

Navigating Workplace Conflict in a Changing World (03:51)

Kilmann discusses the rising relevance of conflict management against the backdrop of global changes like diversity, deregulation, and political polarization. This changing landscape has highlighted the importance of effectively navigating conflict.

The Interplay of Conflict and Organizational Change (05:03)

“Conflict and change comprise two sides of the same coin. Change creates conflict and resolving conflict creates change” -Ralph Kilmann,

Kilmann emphasizes that at least 80% of organizational behavior is system-driven, not based on personal preferences. This underscores the critical role of systems in navigating workplace conflict. He advocates for changing organizational conditions to enable healthy conflict resolution.

Leadership’s Role in Conflict Management (07:22)

Discussion on how leaders can facilitate conflict resolution by understanding that conflict and change are inseparable. Kilmann stresses the need for leaders to focus on organizational systems to effectively navigate workplace conflict.

Conflict as an Inevitable Aspect of Leadership (10:24)

Kilmann’s perspective on conflict as an inevitable, natural process. He argues that effective leadership involves embracing and navigating workplace conflict constructively to foster organizational and personal growth.

Inner Conflicts: A Mirror to External Conflicts (11:55)

Ralph Kilmann explores how internal conflicts, like the struggle between ego and soul, influence external conflict resolution. Understanding and resolving these inner conflicts is key to effectively navigating workplace conflict.

A Deeper Dive into TKI’s Conflict Model (18:52)

An elaborate explanation of the TKI model illustrates how different conflict-handling modes like competing, accommodating, and collaborating are essential tools in navigating workplace conflict.

Cultural and Systemic Influences on Conflict Handling (25:49)

Kilmann highlights the impact of organizational culture and hierarchical structures on conflict resolution. He suggests that understanding these systemic factors is crucial in navigating workplace conflict and unlocking the full potential of teams and individuals.

Grateful for Ralph Kilmann’s Endorsement of Our New Book on Navigating Workplace Conflict

“Hurt and Dye’s new book beautifully provides what is missing in virtually all books on conflict and conflict management: They provide a plethora of very specific examples of how choosing and then using particular words and phrases can make a huge difference in being able to resolve any conflict situation with others at work—by providing readers with the most effective verbal and nonverbal tools for keeping their challenging conversations going and thus creating an engaging and sustained setting in which all persons are more likely to ask the key questions, actively listen to one another’s different perspectives, and then propose creative solutions so everyone can get their most important needs met in the conflict situation.”

Ralph H. Kilmann, Ph.D., author of the 2023 book: Mastering the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), and co-author of the TKI assessment tool

Related Articles:

Workplace Conflict: Why it’s So Tricky Now and What To Do About It

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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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