No one enjoys conflicts at work, but unfortunately, it happens to everyone. Showing your interviewer, or possible employer, that you can handle conflict, and resolve it, is crucial. Do you get frustrated and make the situation worse, or do you take a step back and remain calm? This is a behavioral question. What does that mean? It means that you should use this as an opportunity to share an experience where you succeeded. Your interviewer is asking you this because they want to know how you’re going to handle a situation when you encounter a problem, like a disagreement with a co-worker. What steps do you take to get to a resolution?
Hint: Need more help after reading this article? Check out the STAR technique!
There are a lot of different experiences that you can choose, but make sure this conflict happened either at work or school. You should also pick a conflict where there was a positive outcome and one where you were able to resolve the problem on your own. This means that none of your teachers or bosses got involved. Why? Because you want to show your employer that you are competent and able to problem solve on your own—this is a critical quality in any work setting! Avoid giving too much detail or placing blame on others.
Example: “At my previous job, I was working as a manager at a coffee shop. One day, I noticed that two of my employees were not getting along and kept fighting in front of customers.”
One of the most essential skills that you should demonstrate in your answer is communication. So, when you are explaining to your interviewer what steps you took to solve the problem, make sure you emphasize how you communicated. How did you approach the conflict? What strategies did you use?
Example: “One day after work, I asked the two employees to talk about this conflict in private. I asked them to explain what was upsetting them. I made sure that I was empathetic and actively listening.”
Notice how, in this example, the person is keeping the answer simple while also demonstrating their other skills like active listening.
Lastly, you need to tell the interviewer what happened as a result of your actions. Remember, keep this concise and straightforward. It’s easy to go off on a rant, but stay focused and simply explain what happened.
Example: “We decided to have each of the employees work in different sections of the shop, and then at the end of the week, we had a follow-up conversation. Each employee was happy working in separate areas, and noticed that the employees were friendlier to one another and even talked to each other during lunch breaks.”
This is one of the most critical steps when answering this question. Maybe you gained a new perspective or learned a more effective way of communicating with others. You also might have improved your relationship with a co-worker. Be honest and transparent with this part of your answer. This will show your interviewer that you are sincere and can effectively solve any problems thrown in your path.
Example: “I learned that each person has a different approach to work and how they like to get things done. I realize now that it is important to handle conflict right away and work together to come up with a solution. With this experience, I developed a better relationship with my employees, it helped me to resolve future conflict with other employees.”
Dealing with conflict is never fun, but it is one of the many obstacles you will face at a job. It’s perfectly normal to disagree with others, but it is important to learn how to work through your problems with them and to learn from these experiences. Overall, make sure that your employer knows that you are comfortable with resolving conflict and that you look at it as a learning experience as well as an opportunity for growth.