Pros & Cons of Competing Conflict Management Style

In the realm of conflict management, various styles are employed to navigate and resolve disputes effectively. Among these, the Competing conflict management style stands out for its assertive and uncooperative approach, prioritizing one’s own needs and objectives over those of others. This win-lose strategy can be particularly effective in certain scenarios, where decisiveness and strong advocacy are required. However, its aggressive nature also brings inherent drawbacks, potentially leading to strained relationships and a lack of collaboration. Understanding the pros and cons of the Competing style is crucial for individuals and leaders who aim to manage conflicts wisely, choosing the most appropriate strategy based on the situation at hand. This exploration aims to provide a balanced view, offering insights into when and how the Competing style can be effectively utilized, as well as highlighting the potential risks and how they can be mitigated.

What is competing conflict management style

The Competing conflict management style is characterized by a high level of assertiveness and a low level of cooperativeness. This approach is often described as a win-lose scenario, where one party pushes for their own interests and goals at the expense of the other party’s interests. The competing style is grounded in the pursuit of one’s own goals or objectives without regard to the impact on the other party involved in the conflict. It is used when an individual prioritizes their own needs, desires, or concerns over those of others.

Key Features of the Competing Style:

  • Assertive and Uncooperative: Individuals using this style aggressively pursue their own needs and do not cooperate to meet the needs of others.
  • Win-Lose Orientation: The focus is on winning the conflict, even if it means the other party loses.
  • Power Use: It often involves using whatever power is available to win the argument or get one’s way, including authority, resources, or other forms of leverage.
  • Direct and Forceful: This style entails clear and direct communication, often without much regard for the feelings or viewpoints of the opponent.
  • Protection of Personal Interests: It is particularly used when personal interests or critical issues are at stake and need to be defended.

Appropriate Uses:

  • Emergencies: When quick, decisive action is needed, and there is no time for discussion.
  • Important Issues: Where the stakes are high for one party and the issue is too important to compromise.
  • Unpopular Decisions: Enforcing unpopular but necessary decisions, such as cost-cutting measures or disciplinary actions.
  • Protection: Defending against aggression or ensuring personal or organizational boundaries are respected.


While the competing style can be effective in certain scenarios, it is not without its drawbacks. Overuse or inappropriate use of this style can lead to damaged relationships, decreased morale, and a lack of collaboration, which can be counterproductive in environments that thrive on teamwork and mutual respect.

Pros & Cons of competing conflict management style

The Competing conflict management style, characterized by a high level of assertiveness and a low level of cooperativeness, focuses on winning the conflict at the expense of the other party. While this approach might seem aggressive, it has several advantages in certain situations:

  1. Quick Resolution: The competing style allows for fast decision-making and resolution of conflicts, which is particularly useful in situations requiring immediate action or where a quick decision is crucial.
  2. Clarity and Decisiveness: It provides clear, decisive leadership in situations where ambiguity could be detrimental. This clarity can be essential in crisis situations or when firm direction is needed.
  3. Protection of Vital Interests: This style is effective in safeguarding one’s own interests, rights, or position, especially when they are non-negotiable or of significant importance.
  4. Promotes Action and Change: Competing can stimulate action and change in stagnant situations, pushing through complacency or resistance to ensure that necessary actions are taken.
  5. Effective in Unequal Power Dynamics: In scenarios where there is a significant power imbalance, the competing style can be an effective way for the more powerful party to assert their authority and achieve their goals.
  6. Establishes Strong Boundaries: It is useful in setting and enforcing clear boundaries, particularly in situations where boundaries have been previously disrespected or violated.
  7. Resolution of Unavoidable Conflicts: Some conflicts are based on mutually exclusive goals or needs. In these instances, competing can lead to a definitive resolution where compromise or collaboration is not possible.

While the competing style has these advantages, it’s important to use it judiciously to avoid potential downsides such as damaged relationships, reduced teamwork, and the possibility of creating a hostile environment. Its effectiveness is often maximized when combined with a strategic understanding of when and how to deploy other conflict management styles.

Cons of Competing conflict management style and how to handle it

While the Competing conflict management style has its advantages, particularly in situations requiring quick, decisive action, it also comes with several drawbacks. Understanding these cons and how to mitigate them is crucial for anyone looking to employ this style effectively without damaging relationships or compromising long-term objectives.

Cons of Competing Conflict Management Style

  1. Relationship Damage: Persistently using a competing style can strain or damage relationships, leading to resentment, distrust, and a lack of cooperation among team members or partners.
  2. Decreased Morale: Overuse of this style can demoralize team members or colleagues who feel their opinions and needs are consistently overlooked or undervalued.
  3. Resistance and Retaliation: It may provoke resistance or retaliation from the opposing party, especially if they perceive the approach as unfair or overly aggressive.
  4. Stifles Innovation and Collaboration: By prioritizing winning over collaborative problem-solving, this style can stifle innovation and prevent the discovery of more creative, mutually beneficial solutions.
  5. Overlooking Better Solutions: A focus on winning the conflict at all costs can lead to missed opportunities for better solutions that could have been found through collaboration or compromise.
  6. Short-term Focus: The competing style often focuses on immediate wins rather than long-term benefits, potentially overlooking the bigger picture or more sustainable solutions.

How to Handle the Cons

To mitigate the drawbacks of the Competing conflict management style, consider the following strategies:

  1. Use Sparingly: Reserve the competing style for situations where it is absolutely necessary, such as when quick decisions are needed, or critical interests are at stake.
  2. Balance with Other Styles: Blend competing with more collaborative approaches like compromising or collaborating when the situation allows. This can help maintain relationships and encourage teamwork.
  3. Enhance Communication: Clearly communicate the reasons behind decisions made through competition to reduce misunderstandings and potential resentment. Transparency can help others understand the necessity of the approach in certain situations.
  4. Acknowledge and Address Concerns: Recognize and validate the concerns of the opposing party, even when employing a competing style. Showing empathy can help mitigate negative feelings and pave the way for better future interactions.
  5. Develop Emotional Intelligence: Cultivating emotional intelligence can help in understanding when a competing style is likely to be effective or counterproductive. Being able to read the emotional landscape of a conflict can guide more appropriate conflict management strategies.
  6. Focus on Long-term Relationships: While employing the competing style, keep an eye on the long-term impact of actions on relationships. Prioritizing relationships over winning in every single conflict can lead to more sustainable success.
  7. Seek Feedback: After employing a competing approach, seek feedback from those involved to understand its impact and learn from the experience. This can help refine when and how this style is used in the future.

Balancing assertiveness with sensitivity to the broader context and the needs of others can help mitigate the downsides of the competing conflict management style, making it a valuable tool in the conflict management toolkit when used judiciously.

Сompeting conflict management style examples

Competing conflict management style, marked by a high assertiveness and low cooperativeness, often manifests in scenarios where one party seeks to assert their position or interests over another’s. Here are examples across various contexts to illustrate how the competing style can play out:


  • Promotion or Raise Negotiation: An employee insists on a significant raise or promotion based on their contributions and is not open to alternatives, using their performance metrics and market value as leverage.
  • Resource Allocation: A department head demands more resources for their team, arguing that their projects are critical to the company’s success, despite knowing it might mean fewer resources for other departments.

Personal Relationships

  • Decision Making in a Relationship: One partner insists on choosing the vacation destination without considering the other’s preferences, arguing that they didn’t get to choose last time.
  • Household Responsibilities: One family member insists on specific chores for each person, refusing to adjust the schedule despite changes in others’ availability or capacity.

International Relations

  • Territorial Disputes: A country insists on its claim over a disputed territory, using military presence as a show of strength and unwillingness to negotiate shared sovereignty.
  • Trade Negotiations: A nation demands favorable trade terms, threatening tariffs on the other country’s exports if their demands are not met.

Legal and Political

  • Legislative Process: A political leader pushes through a piece of controversial legislation using their party’s majority, despite opposition and without seeking compromise.
  • Courtroom Dynamics: In litigation, a lawyer aggressively pursues a win for their client, using every legal advantage available to them, focusing solely on the client’s interests rather than a fair settlement.

Educational Settings

  • Grade Disputes: A student insists that their exam grade is unfair and demands a re-evaluation, refusing to accept the professor’s feedback or the possibility of error on their part.
  • Curriculum Changes: An academic department head pushes for their courses to be core requirements for more majors, emphasizing the importance of their discipline over others without seeking input from other departments.

In each of these examples, the competing style is used to unilaterally achieve a goal or assert a position. While this approach can be effective in certain situations where one’s rights, position, or critical needs are at stake, it often leads to tension and conflict escalation. Balancing this style with more cooperative approaches, when appropriate, can help maintain relationships and foster a more collaborative environment.


The Competing conflict management style, with its focus on assertiveness and winning, serves as a double-edged sword in the arsenal of conflict resolution strategies. On one hand, it offers clear benefits, including quick decision-making, decisive action, and the protection of critical interests. These advantages make it an indispensable tool in situations requiring firm leadership and in scenarios where compromise is not an option. On the other hand, the potential for negative fallout—such as damaged relationships, decreased morale, and hindered collaboration—cannot be overlooked. Effective conflict management, therefore, requires a nuanced understanding of the competing style’s strengths and weaknesses. By recognizing the appropriate contexts for its application and balancing its use with more cooperative approaches, individuals and leaders can navigate conflicts more effectively, ensuring outcomes that are not only successful in the short term but also conducive to long-term relationships and organizational health.

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