Answering: “How Do You Handle Conflict In The Workplace?”

August 26, 2020 Stephanie Klemperer

conflict in the workplace

Landing a job involves more than proving you have the right skills and experience for the role. In addition to your background, personality can be a major factor in whether you receive an offer. With the workplace comprised of so many interactions between employees, an interviewer will ask behavioral questions to help gain a better understanding of how well you work with others.

Since conflict can come into play in a variety of situations at work, employers love to ask questions about conflict in the workplace to evaluate your interpersonal skills. To help you prepare, we’ve listed some of the most common questions about conflict in the workplace and offered some tips for answering them:

Tell me about a time you’ve had a conflict with a colleague

First, make sure your example fits these criteria:

  • It’s specific: Don’t provide a response that speaks to a general conflict such as, “the team didn’t have good communication.” This doesn’t answer the question, and doesn’t offer much insight into your interpersonal skills.
  • You played a key role in conflict resolution: Give greater context into your problem-solving skills by explaining how you actively resolved the situation, while avoiding responses that involved escalating the conflict to someone else.
  • The conflict wasn’t caused by you: To avoid raising any red flags, stay clear from conflicts that were directly or indirectly caused by you. Just be careful not to place all the blame on the other party.

You’ll need to be able to walk an employer through the entire conflict, from how it arose to what you did to resolve it, and what you may have learned. Since past performance is the best indicator of future performance, employers will be paying close attention to your response.

How do you deal with conflict?

Employers might ask this question to evaluate how you behave when faced with conflict in the workplace. As a result, you should be able to describe your specific process for managing any issues that may arise. For example, a good answer might touch on the following points:

  • How you take a step back to gather your thoughts before responding
  • A willingness to listen without judgement to the other party (or both sides)
  • Your ability to respect the privacy of the situation

Give an example of a time when you disagreed with your supervisor

 Employers could ask this question to understand how you view your relationship with your supervisor and other authority figures. As you respond, you don’t have to worry about giving a cliché answer like, “I don’t ever disagree with my boss.” The interviewer understands that these disagreements are bound to happen, and as a result, is asking this question for a reason—to evaluate your communication skills, your level of maturity, and your willingness to speak up when working with your superiors. Address these three points by discussing a professional (not personal) conflict in the workplace where both you and your supervisor came to a mutually beneficial solution.

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