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4 Examples of a Lose-Lose Situation

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Lose-lose is a situation where no participant has any option that is positive. As such, strategy in a lose-lose situation is aimed at minimizing loss as opposed to winning.

Decision Making

A patient with a severe infection needs to decide if they want to amputate their leg to improve their chances of surviving.


Negotiation that produces no value but has a cost such as legal fees. For example, a divorce that involves negotiating for what a couple owned together whereby no value can be created but legal fees are incurred.


A fixed-price IT project is late and is failing to realize the benefits promised in its business case. The vendor performing the work has spent $4 million on the project and will only receive a fee of $1 million if they complete it. The customer is pushing the vendor to finish the project despite the fact they now know it has no value to their business. Both sides want to end the project without being blamed for its failure. There is no prospect the project will be profitable for either side.

Price War

A price war between airlines on a high traffic route results in losses for all sides as prices dip below costs. The first airline to give up and raise prices will lose most of its business volume on the route as passengers usually chose the cheapest fare. Any airline that lowers prices further won't be likely to gain business as their competitors have incentive to match the price cut. Competition laws prevent the airlines from meeting to negotiate out of the price war.


Lose-lose is a situation where each participant will lose something and has no chance for a gain. Participants can try to minimize their losses but there is no chance something positive will happen.
Overview: Lose-Lose Situation
A situation where no participant has any option that is positive.
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Next: Win-Lose
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