You spend so many waking hours in the workplace that conflict between co-workers can happen. How you handle conflict is what the interviewer would like to know. This is not an opportunity to start venting about your current workplace culture.
An interviewer wants to see that you will take accountability for conflict whether the occurrence is considered your fault, or not. Handling workplace conflict tactfully, and with grace, should be the only option. Give a clear example of a time when you professionally managed workplace conflict.
"My style of conflict management is upfront, yet - I swiftly move on. In the five years that I have worked for my current company, I have only come across one instance of conflict. One of my staff members did not show up for their shift, so I was forced to cover their shift. Because of this, I missed my daughter's dance recital. I was upset about it but wanted to do my part as a team player. The next day, the delinquent employee came in and didn't say a word. He didn't apologize to me or thank me for my time. I approached him and told him how his actions impacted my day. He did not respond how I wanted; however, I let it go after I said my part. You cannot change the actions of others, but you have to take responsibility for how you handle your side."
Admin answer example
"One point I learned when obtaining my Business Admin degree is that conflict is often a symptom of poor communication, so when conflict arises in the workplace, I am sure to address the situation by starting at the root of the issue - communication breakdown. With most things in life, I like to address conflict upfront rather than let them fester into a more significant issue. Speaking to someone openly, while making sure they don't feel as though you are attacking them, can yield excellent results, I find."
Manager answer example
"I start by identifying the possible reasons for the conflict, poor communication, absence of required materials, employee morale being down, etc. From there, I talk directly with the persons conflicting to find solutions and get everyone back on track."
Sales answer example
"In a previous role, another employee and I seemed to be clashing. Nothing overt or truly problematic, but we worked together frequently, and it was becoming toxic. Rather than let it fester, I asked to speak with her for a quick minute. We grabbed a conference room and talked. We aired out any grievances we had and quashed them right there. We went on to be great teammates and ultimately became friends outside of work as well."
Retail answer example
"I'd say that conflict makes me uncomfortable but is entirely necessary at times. I try to stay out of it and let my coworkers handle it themselves since there is something to be learned from hashing it out without interference. That said, I am always paying attention to be sure that it doesn't go too far. When necessary, I am sure to step in and mediate, telling the parties to take a bit to cool off before we dive back in. I feel that this has been very effective for me in the past and it's something I will continue to do as a retail manager."
Teacher answer example
"There will always be creative differences among teachers regarding our philosophies on teaching, or homework. Anything you could disagree on- we do! However, I like to approach any conflict about teaching philosophies as an opportunity to explain my perspective, why I believe what I do, and let them do the same. This way, I can potentially learn from them. It is also important to remember, both the most senior teachers and the newest hires have something important to contribute."
Marketing answer example
"I feel that I stay out of conflict for the most part. I am happy to be involved in a debate or intellectual set of differences, but when people start taking it personally or attacking one another, I remove myself from the situation. I love to collaborate and am always up for a friendly debate, however!"