How To Answer Conflict Resolution Interview Questions
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated November 11, 2022
Published June 21, 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Conflict happens in all areas of life, and when you're applying for a position, the company wants to understand your conflict resolution skills. Confidently answering interview questions about conflict resolution can show your ability to work with others, handle stress, and problem-solve effectively. In this article, we discuss the definition of conflict resolution, why interviewers ask questions about your ability to handle conflict in the workplace, and the most common conflict resolution interview questions, with sample responses and tips for handling conflict in a work environment.
What is conflict resolution?
In its simplest terms, conflict resolution is the process whereby two or more people in disagreement come to a peaceful decision or settlement. There are several types of conflict in the workplace you can experience. One type of conflict is between individuals, such as between colleagues, supervisors and employees, or between an employee and customer. The second type of conflict you can experience in the workplace is between groups, such as between management and staff or between departments.
Some types of conflict are arbitrary, meaning it doesn't matter who is right or wrong in the situation and the focus is on resolving the issue so work can resume. Other conflicts show more significant problems, such as how a company could operate more effectively.
Why do employers ask conflict resolution interview questions?
Recruiters and hiring managers typically ask questions during an interview about conflict resolution in your previous work experience. These questions allow them to assess your ability to handle stressful situations in the workplace. Your response also provides insight into your ability to handle conflict positively and productively while reaching a beneficial outcome. Your answers show your communication skills within the work environment and your ability to interact and relate to others while also showing your problem-solving skills.
Common interview conflict resolution questions
You need to prepare for your next interview to respond confidently to conflict resolution interview questions. We've included several common questions with an explanation of why a recruiter asks them, along with a sample response for each:
Tell me about a time you had a conflict at work.
This is one of the most common behavioural interview questions about conflict resolution. Interviewers ask behavioural questions to assess what you did in the past, as it often predicts future behaviour. A hiring manager asks this question to evaluate several skills based on your experience. Your response tells them about your ability to work with others effectively, your communication and problem-solving skills, and your proficiency to resolve a dispute independently.
To answer this question, use the STAR method to develop your response. Using the STAR method provides a framework to answer experience and behavioural interview questions in an organized and effective way. The STAR method is an acronym for a four-step system that includes describing:
The situation, explaining the conflict or challenge
The task or your role in the conflict
The action, providing detailed information on the steps you used to resolve the conflict
The results of your actions
Example: "In my previous position, while working on a project team, a colleague would continuously put down the suggestions of both myself and my other coworkers during project meetings. The individual would also constantly interrupt the speaker and interject their thoughts. I found it extremely disruptive. I would become impatient with them during project meetings because of my frustration.
"After looking at the situation with some perspective, I recognized the team was under a lot of pressure to complete the project and that we were all doing our best. I adjusted my communication style with this individual and approached our conversations with empathy and more time for discussion if they didn't feel heard. By consciously changing how I communicated with this person, we could work effectively together. They showed respect for others' ideas, and we completed the project successfully. "
How do you deal with conflict with a coworker?
A hiring manager asks this question during an interview to understand how you work with others within a team environment and your ability to handle conflict with a peer. Through your response, they are evaluating your ability to communicate, problem-solve, and deal with difficult situations respectively and collaboratively. Conflict isn't an easy experience to navigate for everyone, so if you struggle with conflict, be honest with the interviewer and include how you are working on the skill.
Example: "In most cases, I handle conflict positively and constructively. I would rather come to a mutual agreement than continue to work in an uncomfortable environment. That said, if my coworker has a strong personality, I occasionally can become passive and allow them to take charge. I'm aware of this pattern and am working on being assertive in these situations to ensure I express my thoughts and ideas."
Describe a time you disagreed with a manager or supervisor and how you handled the situation.
Along with how you interact with coworkers, a hiring manager wants to understand your ability to interact with company leadership. They ask this question to evaluate how you handle conflict with a supervisor or someone in a position of authority. The hiring manager assesses your ability to maintain your values and ethics and your willingness to take direction. Use the STAR method to provide a clear example of when you disagreed with a supervisor and the steps you took to resolve the conflict.
Example: "While I respect authority and can take direction, sometimes expressing my thoughts about a disagreement with my supervisor was necessary and proven to be constructive. For example, as a service writer, my previous supervisor would often approach the service counter while attending to a customer and interrupting.
"Without understanding the circumstance, they would intervene and make unrealistic promises to the customer about the time we would need their equipment. This put me in an awkward situation, as I knew we couldn't commit to the timeframe. I asked for a meeting with my supervisor, and during our conversation, I expressed my concerns in an organized and polite way. They understood my concerns and supported my ability to take care of the customers at the counter independently in the future."
Tell me about a time you disagreed with a company policy or rule and how you handled the situation.
A hiring manager wants to know you can accept the company's policies and procedures while also thinking independently and having good judgment. An interviewer asks this question to determine your ability to follow directions that make sense in unique situations. But your response also allows you to expand on your critical thinking skills and explain why an outdated or impractical rule may need to be rethought by company leadership.
Example: "In my previous position, the company had a strict no-cell-phone policy while working. I dealt with a client who was on the go and specifically requested that all communication with them be through text message. My supervisor was absent the day I worked with this customer, so I let my colleagues know what was happening and why I was using my cell phone during business hours. The next day, I informed my supervisor of the client's request and what I had done. They appreciated my honesty and also my willingness to provide the best customer service I could. The company soon after implemented a computer-based texting program for us to communicate with clients via text message."
How do you approach diversity in the workplace?
Focusing strongly on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, this question is becoming more popular with interviewers. Diversity in the workplace means including people from many cultures, but it goes deeper than that. It means including people from all genders, races, religions, academic and economic backgrounds, physical and mental abilities, ages, and ethnicities and providing equal treatment and opportunities for all staff.
Today, most large-scale companies feature a multi-cultural employee population that comprises people from various cultures and beliefs. A hiring manager asks this question to evaluate your understanding of diversity within the work environment and your ability to remain open-minded and inclusive.
Example: "Having worked with national and international companies in my experience, I love the opportunities that diversity offers in the workplace. I deeply enjoy working with and learning from coworkers and managers who can expand my perspective and openness to others' ways of viewing the world."
Tips for dealing with conflict in the workplace
Because companies highly value the skill of conflict resolution, you can work toward developing and improving your skills with these simple tips:
Build professional relationships with your colleagues founded on mutual respect.
Practice the skill of actively listening to provide your complete focus and attention to the speaker to eliminate misunderstanding.
Use respectful communication to express your ideas and opinions so everyone feels comfortable in the situation.
React objectively in the workplace and focus on a person's actions if there is a problem, instead of attacking the person themselves.
Identify recurring situations of conflict and find ways to solve the underlying issue to prevent future challenges.
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