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Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode (TKI): What's Wrong with Competing?


As in past issues, we'll be discussing the potential downside to use the competing style to resolve conflict.

Competing has advantages that are of great benefit in certain circumstances. For example, it helps when another person is attempting to take advantage of you, when you need to test assumptions, and when it's important to assert your position. However, where there is light, there is shadow. We'll discuss the less positive aspects of competing now.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage to competing is the significant negative effect it can have on relationships. Many people are sensitive to competing behavior and can form negative opinions about competitive people. Many will feel as if they were taken advantage of, coerced into accepting a decision, or as if their position was not heard, respected, or considered. If this were to occur several times in a short period of time, it's probable the other person would no longer continue to negotiate on points. He or she would likely avoid the situation as much as possible.

Another problem with competing is the solution you reach might not be the best for all concerned. In competing, a person attempts to get his or her needs satisfied at the cost of others. Few people will accept being at the losing end of negotiations for long. They might resort to competing behavior themselves, or the solution you reach together will leave everyone dissatisfied. People will withhold useful or needed information if they feel they have no opportunity to participate or won't be heard.

Motivation and initiative can suffer in an organization or group where competing is the most common or frequent conflict style. As mentioned, many people dislike the competitive style, so they will withdraw and refuse to participate when that style is used. If the decision is going to be imposed on them, why should they care or contribute? They'll soon recognize it's not worth the effort.

Finally, if competing doesn't work, many people are tempted to escalate their tactics, including using threats, physical force, hostile words and actions and more. Once again, no one responds positively to such measures. Resistance will surely increase. All aspects of the relationship will suffer. If you make threats that lack credibility, you'll lose respect and authority. In sum, your negotiations might deadlock and you'll get exactly what you wanted to avoid.


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