How to Answer the Question “How Do You Manage Conflict At Work?” in a Job Interview

What is Workplace Conflict?

Workplace conflict occurs when disagreements arise between colleagues. These disagreements may be caused by opposing ideas, interests, or beliefs. Workplace conflict can take many forms, including

  • Chronic difficult relationships
  • Personality clashes
  • Verbal abuse
  • Harassment
  • Bullying
  • Discrimination

Why Do Interviewers Ask About Workplace Conflict?

Alternative Phrasings

  • How do you handle conflict? Give me an example.
  • Tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult co-worker.
  • Give me an example of a time when you disagreed with your boss.
  • How do you deal with differences of opinion when working on a team?
  • Was there ever a time when you disagreed with a rule, policy or approach and how you handled it.
  • Tell me about a time you had to respond to an unhappy customer or client

How Do You Manage Workplace Conflict? | An Example of A Behavioural Interview Question

Using the CAR Technique to Answer the Question “How Do You Manage Conflict at Work?”

The golden rule when you’re answering behavioural interview questions is to adhere to the CAR Principle: Context, Action, Result. Remember these three steps and you’ll be well on your way to thoroughly impressing your interviewer:

  1. Action: Explain the actions you took to address the conflict. Be specific and outline your steps and rationale.
  2. Result: Detail the outcome of your action. Offer specific facts relating to the positive outcome of your actions e.g. figures, statistics, quotes etc.

How to Select an Example of Workplace Conflict to Talk About

As part of your interview preparation, you will need to brainstorm an example of workplace conflict. Ideally, your chosen example should have a positive outcome that came about as a direct result of the actions you took. What’s more, your chosen story should also highlight a key learning moment for you in your career.

8 Points to Highlight in Your Answer

  1. Illustrate that you can stay calm in a stressful situation.
  2. Assure your interviewer that you are a good listener who strives to understand the other party’s opposing viewpoint without getting upset.
  3. Show them that you think logically and are willing to compromise when needed.
  4. Highlight that you keep the organisation’s best interests in mind.
  5. Showcase your discretion by mentioning how the conflict resolution took place in a private space.
  6. Demonstrate that you can be accountable for yourself and accept responsibility when appropriate. Don’t be afraid to admit that you were in the wrong, if that’s what happened.
  7. Show that you have learned from the incident and put it behind you.
  8. Show that in spite of your disagreement, you still respect the other party and don’t hold a grudge with them over the conflict.

What Not to Say When Answering “How Do You Manage Workplace Conflict?”

  • Don’t dodge the question by saying that you have never experienced a work conflict because you get along with everyone.
  • Similarly, don’t evade the question by giving a vague or general answer.
  • Don’t mention that you don’t handle conflict well.
  • Avoid using emotional or negative language as this may make you seem unreasonable or difficult to work with.
  • Don’t blame others or bash past colleagues or bosses.
  • Don’t spend too much time talking about the conflict, at the expense of explaining the resolution.
  • Don’t become confrontational when the interview asks follow-up questions.
  • Don’t waste time describing unnecessary details.

Sample Answers to the Question “How Do You Manage Conflict at Work?”

“How do you manage conflict at work?”

Based on my professional experience, I think I handle conflict well. I feel conflict arises naturally when people care about their work and have strong opinions about how best to get it done. I admit that in the past, I have become defensive when trying to express my opinion.

“Tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult co-worker.”

In one of my previous roles, I had a colleague who never finished her work on time. Given the fast-paced nature of the work, this led to backlogs and delays. I often found myself picking up the slack and working harder and later to cover for her. This carried on for about two months and I realised that my co-worker would never change her ways if I kept covering for her.

“Tell me about a time you disagreed with your boss.”

When preparing a report about the performance of past projects, my manager asked me to delete data about unsuccessful projects. I was reluctant to do this because I knew that omitting this information would skew the report. I expressed my concerns to my manager, but he insisted that I proceed with removing the data.

“How do you deal with differences of opinion when working on a team?”

In my last job, I worked as part of a team to prepare a presentation for a new client. There was a disagreement within the team about how best to approach this task. Some people wanted to hold daily meetings, whereas the others, including myself, thought there was no need for this because we had a log in which we could easily report and track our progress. I felt that the other approach would take up too much valuable time.

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