The Conflict in the Workplace Interview Question

How To Answer the Interview Question ‘How Do You Deal With Conflict in the Workplace?’

Show me a workplace environment without any conflict, ever, and I’ll give you a ride on my Sally, my unicorn. Conflict is quite normal where pressure is a constant and people need to work together to meet deadlines. Some teams handle these pressures better than others, and some people handle conflict in the workplace better than others.

Most people that have worked in a corporate, or high pressure environment would have experienced conflict, which is why we are always amazed with the answers candidates give us in interviews when we ask “How do you handle conflict in the workplace?” The answer that we normally get is: “Well, if I am involved in conflict in the workplace, and the conflict results from a disagreement with a colleague, my colleague and I would sit down and discuss the issue and work through it, until we have the issue resolved.” Here’s what’s wrong with that answer:

  1. This answer is canned, and does not show initiative. The best way to answer many interview questions is by telling a story from experience
  2. Conflict is predominantly filled with emotions from everyone involved, and the dominant emotion is probably anger. When someone is in a state of anger, they aren’t necessarily thinking of compromise- they are thinking about their way or the highway
  3. How you manage conflict says a lot about you, so when you use a canned answer like the one above, it shows a lack of experience with conflict in the workplace
  4. The best way to handle conflict in the workplace is through compromise, and to get to a stage where that is possible, everyone involved needs to be more zen, so step away from the problem for a few minutes to calm down, then get back together and find the root cause of the problem and try to solve that- you might find that working together to solve the problem that caused the conflict will add strength to the team

A big part of our NZ Job Search training revolves around interviewing, and how you need to understand yourself(S•W•O•T) well before you even go in for an interview. This includes preparing for questions that might be asked in an interview, like the question above. When we say prepare, we mean preparing real life examples and stories for the answers to questions that will be asked, not rehearing canned answers, as that will not be memorable and will not show initiative.

So, how do you handle conflict in the workplace?

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