Conflict of goals

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A conflict is objective relations is always present when at least two goals to be pursued and can not be met simultaneously and to the same extent that they are inconsistent with each other. The opposite is the goal harmony .


Economics , whose findings have been adopted from other areas and in everyday life, has been particularly concerned with setting goals and objectives . Target relationships arise as soon as at least two goals are to be fulfilled simultaneously and to the same extent by an economic entity ( company , private household , state , foreign country ). Ideally, the goals complement each other, one speaks of complementary goals or goal harmony . The realization of one goal promotes the fulfillment of the other goal. With goal neutrality , the achievement of one goal has no effect on the achievement of another goal. However, if they are in competition with one another, there is a conflict of objectives . Then the pursuit of one goal makes the realization of another impossible or at least leads to a lower degree of goal achievement.


A distinction is made between intrapersonal and interpersonal conflicting goals . There is an intrapersonal trade-off of goals when an economic entity cannot simultaneously achieve all of the goals it is pursuing. However, if these goals affect several or all economic subjects at the same time, an interpersonal conflict of goals is spoken of.

A classic example of the intrapersonal conflict of goals is the magic triangle of investment , in which an investor should simultaneously meet the competing goals of return , liquidity and security when making an investment decision . Employers make the experience that the cheaper a worker is, the less qualified to be a rule is; the consumer knows the conflict that the more expensive a home appliance , the more susceptible to injury , it should be. The goal of minimizing costs is achieved in both cases, but the goal of quality is not. The magical corporate goals of profitability , liquidity and risk are also an example of an intrapersonal conflict of goals, because a company has set these competing goals for itself. The harmony of goals exists between the goals of cost reduction and profit maximization , but cost reduction has been derived as a sub-goal from the main goal of profit maximization and has not been set as an independent main goal.

Examples of interpersonal conflicting goals are the magic square in economics or the magic triangle of sustainability . In both of these, all economic subjects are subject to the same competing goals of stable price level / steady and appropriate economic growth / high employment level / external balance (economics) or ecological sustainability / social sustainability / economic sustainability (sustainability). These competing goals are associated with the attribute “magical” because their simultaneous fulfillment is impossible to the same extent. General examples from technology for conflicting goals are maximum energy versus minimum consumption or maximum stability with minimum weight .

The conflict theory distinguishes between three types intrapersonal conflicts of objectives:

  • In an equivalence conflict, an economic subject faces two goals with positive valences, but has to choose one because of incompatibility: a housewife has a certain amount of money available from which she would like to buy a certain dress; But she also likes a trouser suit and has to decide on a piece of clothing.
  • In an ambilance conflict , a goal has both positive and negative valences of roughly equal strength. Examples are the magic triangle of investment and corporate goals.
  • In the vitation conflict , the economic subject faces two goals with negative valences. A household must opt ​​for more costly auto repairs or use credit to buy a new car.


Conflicts of objectives can be resolved through a hierarchy of objectives that ranks the competing objectives in a mutual order . With the help of the hierarchy of goals, conflicting goals - aligned with the strategy - can be resolved. As a result, competing goals no longer have to be fulfilled equally, but the goal classified as the main goal must first be fulfilled. In business administration , the other goals are considered secondary conditions that should not be met with priority but must be observed. For the secondary condition (secondary objective), a certain level of aspiration must be specified to limit it. For example, with the corporate goal of “maximizing profit”, the secondary condition can be “while maintaining liquidity at all times”. The secondary condition (the secondary goal) should not be confused with the minimum goal, because the latter merely specifies a level of satisfaction.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Thomas Köhne, Insurance Marketing , 2016, p. 179
  2. Johannes Bidlingmaier, Target Conflicts and Target Compromises in the Entrepreneurial Decision-Making Process , 1968, p. 63 ff.
  3. Klaus Altfelder / Hans G. Bartels / Joachim-Hans Horn / Heinrich-Theodor Metze, Lexikon der Unternehmensführung , 1973, p. 290
  4. Sabrina Helm, Corporate Reputation and Stakeholder Loyalty , 2007, p. 188
  5. Herbert Wilkens / Marianne Maierbeck, Benefit and Target Problems of Private Households , 1978, p. 115
  6. Günther Schuh, Lean Innovation , 2013, p. 44
  7. Heribert Meffert, Marketing: Introduction to Sales Policy with Case Study VW Golf , 1977, p. 78
  8. Hans-Peter Mehring, Substance maintenance of insurance companies , 1989, p. 37