Reducing Conflict 95 Conflict as a Game

June 4, 2023

Most people dislike conflict, but some people see conflict as a game. This article will describe several situations why conflict can be a game.  Some of these are legitimate, and some of them are simply ways to cause havoc.

Some people do it to stir things up, and others see it as a way to get attention.

Why would someone consider conflict as a game?

There are people who engage in conflict for personal gain or for entertainment. Individuals may use conflict to exert power, control, or dominance over others. These people might derive satisfaction from manipulating or exploiting others. They enjoy the competitive nature of conflict or seek personal advantages at the expense of others.

Unfortunately, these individuals destroy trust within an organization.  Integrity and transparency often are lost when people feel manipulated. In high-trust groups, people do not play games with each other.

Gamers are a blight on society because they cause damage wherever they go. They need to be confronted and taught how to be more caring of others. Their exploits are rooted in selfishness, and they cause severe damage in organizations.

Other more benign conditions for conflict

In certain situations, conflict may be approached strategically, resembling a game-like scenario. It often appears in military operations or strategic negotiations. Such situations involve careful planning, decision-making, and execution, often with specific objectives and rules. The benefit of these confrontations is the learning that goes on for the people involved.

Use of conflict in training

I often put people in conflict situations in my leadership training so they can do a role play of how they would react. These scenarios are particularly challenging, and the debrief is a way to teach proper reactions.

For example, in one role-play exercise, I pit a disgruntled employee against her manager. The employee has just been passed over for a promotion in favor of another woman. She was obviously the best candidate but was not selected because the manager’s boss had a crush on the other woman. The manager was ordered to not divulge the reason for the selection when the employee complained.

In this scenario, it was the manager who was in the hot seat. He had advocated for the employee as the best candidate but was voted down by his superior. Since he was told not to divulge the information, he had no reasonable defense when the employee complained. The lack of trust between the manager and his superior was the root cause of the problem.

Learning opportunity

Putting people in “no win” conflict situations for role play really helps them grow. They see themselves trying to operate in an unfair world and learn some valuable lessons. It is better to confront these situations in the classroom where coaching is available than in the real world.

The ramifications of conflict can be very severe.

Considering conflict as a game or pursuing it solely for personal gratification can have severe consequences.  It will harm others and perpetuate violence or injustice. Conflict should ideally be addressed through peaceful means, such as negotiation. Dialogue and mediation can lead to resolutions that are fair and just for all parties involved.


Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 

Every Day Matters

September 9, 2012

There is a saying that has kicked around for years: “It is the Super Bowl every day.” So many people have used it, I cannot trace who said it first. There is even a Twitter hashtag that uses the phrase as a portal. One author added the concept that in life there are no time outs. In this article, I wanted to expand on these concepts and look inside the locker room.

The concept of each day being the Super Bowl simply refers to the importance of living every day as if it was the most important day we have. Intellectually, we realize that some days are more important than others. I may kick back for a day and do absolutely nothing productive or important all day. Yet to waste a day, or even an hour, is to squander our most important resource in life. Time is really all we have to work with, and each of us gets exactly 24 hours every day. That is like the Super Bowl. It has a start time and an end time, but in the case of life, there are no reruns and no time outs. The game proceeds only forward and has a finite end.

Of what value is thinking in these dimensions? We often forget the fleeting nature of life, because most of us have decades yet to live. That is enough time to achieve numerous accomplishments and build lasting relationships. Each day, each increment of time, seems insignificant, like a drop in the ocean. It is a mistake to think that way, because once a day is spent, it is gone forever.

But life is not just about doing things. It is about enjoying what we do and building relationships that matter. It is the emotional connection we have with loved ones, not the things we have accomplished or acquired, that occupy our final thoughts as we prepare to leave this world.

I think the analogy of the Super Bowl works here as well. We do not play the game of life alone. We are on a team, surrounded by people we love, who help us play our best game possible. We have coaches and support people who fix us up when we fall and help us rise to be our best in the game of life. It is how we treat others that determines how well the team plays together. If trust, respect, and love are carried in our hearts, the team will be a strong winning group.

One thing that every human on the planet shares is the knowledge that one day he or she is going to die. If you remember the movie, “Dead Poets Society,” that concept is what Mr. Keating (played by Robin Williams), was trying to instill in the freshmen at the Helton Prep School. It was the notion of “Carpe-Diem,” or seize the day. You may recall the riveting scene where Keating had the students line up and look in the trophy case at the pictures of former athletes who were dead and gone: their Super Bowl over. He pointed out that the only difference between the boys he was addressing and the deceased athletes in the pictures was that the boys were alive that day. What a powerful scene!

I bring up the concept of carpe-diem at the end of every leadership class I teach. I believe it is the responsibility of each of us to approach each day as if it was Super Bowl Sunday, and we are in the game. Sure, there is time for rest and recuperation, just as winded athletes can sit out a few plays, but even as we rest, the game is still going on.

Try this little exercise to see if it can enrich your life. Intentionally break into your stream of consciousness at least once a day and ask yourself where you are right now. Are you sitting on the bench or are you playing in the game? Are you happy with the job you did on the last play? Do you have a good plan for your next play? How are you treating your teammates who are helping you play the game? Right now, are you playing offense or defense?

You have a general idea how much time is on the clock, but what if a fatal blow takes you out of the game early? Have you made the most of the opportunities you have had along the way? What will the spectators and your teammates remember about you and your life when it is over?

The good news is that there really is time for most of us to improve our game plan. It takes work, but it is rewarding to modify the future plays to obtain a more successful future. We can always foster better relations with the people we love and have more fun. The choice is up to each one of us every day. Make the right choice.