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How do you handle conflict in the workplace?

1 of 30 Common Interview Questions and Answers Written by Rachelle Enns

Updated on February 17th, 2019 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
How to Answer

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 question 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.

Professional Answer Examples
General
Answer example

"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."

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!"

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."

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."

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."

Maintenance
Answer example

"My style of conflict management can best be described as 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."

Pastry Chef
Answer example

"My coworker and I had a misunderstanding about the schedule. We both got frustrated, so I took a step back and asked if we could talk about it when we are both calm so that the tension didn't escalate. The next day I pulled him aside and asked if we could talk. We both shared our sides of the story and realized it was just a miscommunication."

Anesthesiologist Assistant
Answer example

"Since the job of anesthesiologist assistant is is very team-based, it is common to run into conflicts in the workplace, and I have found myself in the midst of many workplace conflicts over the years. However, I am not the type of person who enjoys working in an environment that is riddled with conflict and dramatics, especially when there are patients to take care of, because I do not want the focus to be taken away from the patient. If I find myself in the middle of a conflict, even if a co-worker is being passive, I feel that it is best to address it head-on, with professionalism. Using open communication and a good attitude, I am typically able to work with my coworkers to resolve conflicts before they turn into larger issues."

Nurse Practitioner
Answer example

"My style of conflict management can best be described as upfront, yet - I swiftly move on. In the five years that I have worked for my current facility, I have only come across one instance of conflict. One of my nurses did not show up for their shift, so I was forced to cover their shift, resulting in me working a double. Because of this, I missed my daughter's dance recital. I was upset about it but wanted to do my part as a lead nurse. 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."

Medical Assistant
Answer example

"One of my co-workers wasn't carrying their weight, which meant everyone else had more work to do. I chatted with her one day at lunch, and she shared some personal issues that had been interfering and we agreed she needed some help with her projects. We all met with our boss and we determined a temporary solution to help her while she resolved her issues outside of work."

Union Representative
Answer example

"There was a point when there was a conflict between few of my colleagues and the situation at work place had become really tensed because of that. I decided to intervene and talked to both of the parties, listened to their view points and discussed the issue with them together. We were able to reach a common stand after the discussion and both the parties were satisfied. We made sure that the route for dialogue was open after that and no such situation arise in future."

Radiology
Answer example

"Not too long ago I witnessed a workplace conflict between a nurse and a fellow Radiologist. I wasn't personally involved but unfortunately I was dragged into the issue because I witnessed the conversation. I kept things professional and simply gave the facts without bias or emotion. I really try to stay out of all workplace conflict and drama."

Medical Receptionist
Answer example

"My co-worker and I were pulling charts for the next business day. I asked my co-worker if she would mind grabbing the phone since it was ringing next to her she slammed the records down and stormed out. I answered the phone, pulled my last two charts and headed back to talk to her. I thought that the 10 minutes between her outburst and me going back there would give her time to cool down. After confronting her and asking if I could be of help she opened up about stress at home and apologized for taking it out on me. To this day we have a great working relationship."

Sales Engineers
Answer example

"I am generally very good at managing conflict. One example that I can give you is quite recent. Last month I had a client who had been over-billed in error. They were quite upset with the oversight as they are a long term client. I ensured them that our billing department would review all of their previous invoices to ensure this was a one time incident. It turned out very well and they appreciated my transparency and willingness to solve the problem immediately."

Youth Worker
Answer example

"I think the most important thing is to listen first. I approach each situation with a humble attitude and make sure not to take anything personally. Communication is important, but listening is the first step towards a peaceful resolution!"

Wildlife Officer
Answer example

"I pride myself on my excellent conflict resolution skills. For instance, when working as a/an (X position title) for (X company), I (... X example of a conflicting situation). To resolve the situation in a timely fashion, I (... what you did to revolve the situation). I remained respectful and professional at all times and ensured that (X person involved in the conflict) had a chance to be heard. In the end, the situation resolved and we were able to successfully complete the project."

Bailiff
Answer example

"One example of my ability to handle and resolve conflict is a situation that occurred while working as a/an (X position title) for (X company); (... X example of a conflicting situation with an individual or different parties). To resolve the situation in a timely fashion, I (... what you did to revolve the situation). I remained respectful and professional at all times and ensured that (X individual/parties involved) had the chance to be heard (...). In the end, the situation resolved and we were able to successfully move forward."

Millwright
Answer example

"Difficult co-workers will be present nearly anywhere. I choose to focus on my job at hand and, so long as safety or human relations are not being affected, I go along with my day."

Massage Therapist
Answer example

"At my previous job, one of my client's records went missing. The last person who handled it was my colleague but she had no idea where it was as well. As the papers contained confidential information, it was a serious concern for our team. Instead of pointing fingers, my coworker and I broached the subject to our boss. We searched the entire office and the file in question was found at someone else's table. Turns out that it was mistaken for another document. It was a lesson learned for all of us to become more responsible in handling files. Nevertheless, it was a good thing that none of us were quick to lay the blame so easily for a problem that was so quickly resolved."

Veterinarian School
Answer example

"When dealing with conflict, I first listen hard to the other person or people on the other side of the issue to be sure I understand what their argument is, and try to determine their open-mindedness to hear another perspective. I then lay out my case and hear their response. I either sell them on my side, get sold on their point of view, or compromise to make both sides as sanguine as possible to move forward to a mutually agreeable outcome."

Patient Services Coordinator
Answer example

"I recently experienced a conflict with a patient. They were upset about their service and aimed their anger directly at me. It was very public, as the patient was loud and visibly angry. I was able to keep my voice calm and asked them to step into a more private area to discuss a resolution. I gained their trust and assisted them through their issue."

Veterinary Technician
Answer example

"One of my co-workers wasn't carrying their weight, which meant everyone else had more work to do. I asked her to coffee so that we could chat outside of the workplace. After talking with her, she shared some personal issues that had been interfering and we agreed she needed some help with her projects. We all met with our boss and we determined a temporary solution to help her while she resolved her issues outside of work."

Written by:

Rachelle Enns
Rachelle Enns is a job search expert, executive headhunter, career catalyst, and interview coach. Utilized by top talent from Fortune companies like Microsoft, General Electric, and Nestle, she helps professionals position themselves in today's competitive digital marketplace. Rachelle founded Renovate My Resume and Executive Resume Solutions, two companies focused on helping job seekers get their edge back. She helps everyone from new graduates looking for their first placement, to CEO's who want more out of their career. Rachelle coaches students to executives on how to master the toughest interview questions and how to handle the most bizarre interview situations; all with confidence and poise. Rachelle trains other career coaches, recruiters, and resume writers, globally. A big part of her job is also spent coaching HR professionals on how to bring the human touch back into their interview and hiring process.
Ryan Brown
Ryan Brown, is the creator of MockQuestions. He has over ten years experience creating interview questions. His website has helped over 10 million job seekers in their interview preparation.
First written on: 06/08/2015
Last modified on: 02/17/2019

More Interview Questions

View user-submitted Answers

How do you handle conflict in the workplace?
1.
When a parent accused me of yelling at her child, I handled the situation in a professional manner and explained the situation.
2.
Usually in most cases id walk away we had a no tolerance policy so their was nothing worth losing your job over.
3.
When I come across confrontation in the work place, I always keep a calm voice and control the situation with the particular words I say. Even if we don't see each others side I try to be open and see where they are coming from.
4.
Confrontation is something that we see a lot in the field we work in. Many times this is a result of fear and frustration due to the situation they are in. Recently had a customer who had been looking for employment for quite some time. She could not get past the interview. In going over her interview skills, realized that she was not specific or confident in presenting her skills. When this was addressed, she became defensive and aggressive. As we discussed the way an employer is looking for skills and process, she became more receptive. The acceptance that she would not be returning to the same job with the same pay was a turning point for her. After that she was able to look at the new ideas in more open and receptive manner. As a result, she was able to pass her interview and gain employment. I find that the best approach is to look for the best possible way where a customer will understand and gain the knowledge and receptiveness necessary. Getting past the fear is very important.
5.
I manage myself frst thn I do handle that situation.
6.
No I had not met with any confrontation as I am go along with my coworkers.
7.
N/a but I would try to defuse the situation.
8.
I have had to deal with confrontation whilst working in the prices arms I handled this confrontation very well and I was happy to help them.
9.
I dealt with confrontation last month. I listen to both sides of the stories, and ensure that the stories are told in public, not behind closed doors. I ensure that each party has a fair opportunity to speak fully to present all of the facts.
10.
When I am at work I am there to do a job. I stay away from gossip and those that like to engage in that behavior. I remain friendly but professional. I have always been that way so I have been able to avoid confrontation. I dont like it and there is no room for it at work.
11.
I go with my coworkers if not I will treat with humble.
12.
By discussing it with the aggrieved party and solve its problems.
13.
I understand the situation thoroughly first before making any decisions.
14.
Usually, I mind my own business. But if it involves me then I generally speak up or Just talk to the manager instead to resolve the issue/s.
15.
When i'm really serious about the issue and I would typically make the confrontation more understanding.
16.
I always talk with a very nice manner, friendly to them and be open minded.
17.
I always talk with a very nice manner, friendly to them and be open minded.
18.
I always talk with a very nice manner, friendly to them and be open minded.
19.
I always talk with a very nice manner, friendly to them and be open minded.
20.
I try to work it out. I haven't seen eye to eye with some employees, but I am willing to work it out.
21.
I have learnt that when dealing with workplace confrontation, I need to think through different options to resolve the matter confronting the matter. This allows me the ability to present workable options without forcing my way or not making any contribution.
22.
I generally do not have a confrontation with people I do is amassed I get the job done I don't argue with people I just work as a team and get it done if I didn't have to handle confrontation most basically would follow the protocol of the job and talk to.
23.
Really I have never had too. I got along with my co-workers and managers .
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