How to Answer: Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.
Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.
The interviewer wants to know more about how you handle conflict between yourself and someone you report to. The goal of your response is to highlight your strong communication abilities in the face of conflict. Show the interviewer that you can face a challenging situation such as disagreeing with your boss, and handle the situation with respectful professionalism.
What to Avoid
Avoid giving a general response like, 'If I disagree with my boss, I'll have a one-on-one conversation with them to sort out the issue.' Although this shows your willingness to address the disagreement, a vague answer like this fails to showcase your behavior, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills. Instead, be prepared to give an actual story example of when you faced this type of situation.
When asked a 'Tell me about a time when...' question, it's important to remember that the interviewer is looking for a specific story-based example that highlights your behavior in challenging situations. Using the STAR interview method (an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result), you can more easily form a story-based response.
How to Answer
Finding common ground with your boss, despite disagreeing with them, shows the interviewer that your desire to collaborate is stronger than your need to be correct. Overcoming disagreements with your boss also highlights your ability to problem-solve while facing a difference of opinion.
Even though you may have a great relationship with your employer, there may be times where you don't see eye to eye. Think of a conflict or disagreement you had with your boss where you responded well and resolved the dispute.
"(Situation) A few months ago, the opportunity of administrative lead opened up in a different department. (Task) My boss and I disagreed about whether my assistant was right for promotion. I knew that I needed to support my recommendation for her promotion factually. (Action) He believed that she should remain in her current role, and I also knew she wasn't quite ready; however, I knew that we'd lose a valuable team member if she weren't given a new opportunity soon. I made a 30-day growth plan for her, along with milestones and regular check-ins. (Result) After the 30 days, my boss and I agreed to promote her since she responded very well to the additional coaching and met promotion requirements."
Rachelle's Admin Example Answer
"(Situation) My previous boss wanted to have a large hand in our social media marketing despite his lack of understanding of how it worked. He wanted to add complicated pricing and photo collages. (Task) As an experienced designer, I felt that a simple teaser and call to action was enough. (Action) After much discussion, we compromised, and each did it our way for one week. We then collected the insights related to customer engagement on each. (Result)I was correct in my stance. After that, he allowed me to manage our social media independently."
Rachelle's Manager Example Answer
"(Situation) Some time ago, I had a boss that regularly forced overtime on employees at the last minute. (Task) I was the Assistant Manager at the time and could quickly see team morale sinking. (Action) I spoke with him at length about team morale. I approached the conversation with data and facts rather than emotion. (Result) He agreed to start giving the overtime notice sooner, making everyone's lives easier."
Rachelle's Sales Example Answer
"(Situation) Last year, my sales director and I disagreed on the pending termination of one of my sales employees. (Task) As a Sales Manager, my philosophy is to train and coach before terminating. (Action) I expressed my desire to spend additional time training this employee. I presented that it would be more expensive to replace this person than to re-train. The director and I agreed that we would move forward with termination if this person missed their targets for another 30 days. After coming to a middle ground, I created a plan to spend five additional hours per week with this individual for three weeks. (Result) Remarkably, his performance improved by over 40%! This sales rep is still with us and often lands on the company's 'Top 10' list for sales performance."
Rachelle's Retail Example Answer
"(Situation) One situation that stands out was a disagreement with my boss at Company XYZ over the distribution of tasks among the two store shifts. (Task) I was the floor manager, and I could see that my night shift team was struggling to keep up with expectations. (Action) I asked my boss for a private meeting to discuss the situation. I provided examples of how the existing methods seemed to be hurting the night shift team morale. (Result) At first, my boss was not thrilled since the conversation questioned her team knowledge. However, after explaining how it impacted team morale, productivity, and ultimately my influence as a leader, she agreed to try my approach. In the end, we were able to disperse tasks evenly among day and night shifts while maximizing productivity and increasing store sales."
Rachelle's Teacher Example Answer
"(Situation) Last semester, my department lead and I did not see eye to eye on a curriculum change. (Task) I am the learning leader, and we collaborate regularly. I have worked carefully to develop a good rapport with her, so I needed to approach the discussion with diplomacy. (Action) In this situation, I created a short presentation with stats and facts to support my opinion. (Result) Although she did not agree with my points, I did learn that it's okay to disagree as long as the conversation remains respectful. As a result, we have become more innovative and thoughtful with the policies, curriculum, and lessons we implement."
Rachelle's Marketing Example Answer
"(Situation) In a previous role, my supervisor believed that the company did not need to invest time or money into growing an email distribution list. (Task) As a skilled marketing manager, I strongly disagreed. (Action) I approached the topic gingerly, used hard numbers from case studies, and tied them to business goals. By removing emotion from the equation and focusing strictly on data and analytics, I could lay my stance out in a way that would be hard to dispute or elicit an emotional response. (Result) Ultimately, my supervisor gave the green light for piloting the program, and it was a great success. I built an email list of over 10,000 contacts, and our conversion rate increased by nearly 25%."
15 Community Answers
"My boss was so angry with me that I didn't notify her about the patient's condition and she received a call from the patient's family and she had no idea what they were talking about, I apologized and tried my best not to do it again."
Take another look at this question and think about revising your answer. The interviewer may be seeking information about a time when you diplomatically disagreed with your manager and continued to work productively with him to her. Can you think of an example to draw on?Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)Thank you, your vote helps us display the best answers!
"Although, I have great respect for my employer, sometimes we have disagreements on some issues. For instance, We had an upcoming project for that we needed to finalize our team for a satellite site, my boss recommended hiring a new experienced team for this project and I opposed this idea for the following reasons 1. it’s been difficult to manage a new team remotely 2. The working area of a satellite office is too small so the new team might not comfortable working as compared to our current staff 3. Project required a fast-paced environment and new staff required more time to adjust and I had a feeling that the project might not be completed in a timely manner. My boss listened to all my suggestions and fears with a great deal of passion and agreed with my recommendation. In this tensed meeting, I was so calm and relaxed and presented my point of view In a presentable way."
Disagreements in the workplace are bound to happen on occasion, and you do a great job of normalizing this experience and sharing how you presented your view and navigated the best path forward. Good work!Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)Thank you, your vote helps us display the best answers!
"Recently My boss and I were doing a remerch in my section of the store and disagreed on a few moves for different products. I had planned this remerch and put a lot of effort and thought into planning it, and he was changing my plan and wasn't backing it up with a reason (sales, looks, ease of shopping). Instead of getting upset, I decided to have a conversation with him about it, I showed him sales reports and explained why I had planned to do it this way. After discussing it he understood and offered some good ideas with reason and we finished the remerch with an altered plan but it was better because we had both brought ideas together."
Good example. The interviewer will undoubtedly be impressed that you were able to communicate effectively with your boss and come to a compromise, despite his initial disagreement with your plan.Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)Thank you, your vote helps us display the best answers!
"I had a conflict with my manager over vacation time. My parents were coming to visit from France, and I requested two days off to spend time with them. My coworker had recently gotten a month off to travel to Mexico. However, my manager refused to give me any time off. I was very disappointed and went to his office to discuss the issue with him privately. I managed to reach a compromise with him by assuring I would get all of my work done before I took time off. It was worth it, as I was able to reach my work obligations and visit my parents. My ability to get my work done on time also helped to rebuild trust with my manager. The situation taught me hard work and dedication do pay off eventually."
It's great that you came to a compromise with your boss, despite his original firm stance against time off. Your answer shows a lot of dedication.Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)Thank you, your vote helps us display the best answers!
"(Situation) A few months ago, when we were getting started in introducing automation in the company (Task) My CEO and I disagreed on how we implement automation within the staging process. (Action) He believed we implement automation using ansible and train nontechnical staging engineers to use it. After working with ansible for a few weeks, I found it not to be very friendly for nontechnical people based on the project we work on. I started experimenting with creating a web server and creating a more user-friendly webpage for people to use. (Result) After building the initial functions and basic configuration tools on it, we were impressed with how easy it was for other people to use."
Nice start! I suggest studying the STAR method a bit closer to ensure that you are emphasizing the right information. This will help to ensure that your answer is more impactful. For instance, your boss believing how the implementation should go is more appropriate for the 'Situation' portion of your story vs. the 'Action' portion. Also, the more detail you can add regarding your communication and approach (this is the purpose of the question), the better.Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)Thank you, your vote helps us display the best answers!
"In my current role, I disagreed with my boss when they were continuously saying to me to push our stakeholder test faster. I am explaining to them why I don't do that currently because our stakeholders at the client side are busy with more critical assignments right now and we don't want to harm the relationship with them. Also, we can not push the other projects we are dependent on either because they are so much bigger and the way they do things is then regulated much stricter."
This response is okay; however, it leaves the interviewer with more questions that answers. What was the resolution? Did you and your boss come to an agreement?
"I recently disagreed with my boss on how to communicate with our stakeholders. I wanted to take a more personable and communicative approach where he wanted to push harder. Of course, I did not want to harm the relationship with the stakeholders, so I chose to take a stance against his recommendations. In the end, I was able to continue communicating with the stakeholders how I saw fit."Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)Thank you, your vote helps us display the best answers!
"I had a sales call for a large customer that we were presenting a project for. The strategy behind the presentation was open for discussion to ensure we captured everybody's "must-haves" in the meeting. He had a certain way of wanting to present to the customer, and I had mine. Ultimately it let to sitting down with our GM to ensure we asked all of the right questions, thought of all of the ways they could say no and in the end, came to an agreement."
You offer some great information; however, there are some gaps in what you offer the interviewer in terms of painting a full picture. Be sure to follow the STAR format for 'Tell me about a time' based questions. Following this framework will avoid this from happening.Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)Thank you, your vote helps us display the best answers!
"I was working on a project, and my team lead asked me to document all the test cases I was working on to a table on a Wiki page. I didn't think that it was a good idea, and I gave a couple of examples: the framework that we are using already allows to have test cases' names in a very descriptive format, the table will become soon outdated because we don't have a dedicated person to do updates and soon I'll start working on some other task, and I won't have time to do updates. But then the team lead said that he wants to show it to the customer so as a result, I created the table and after a couple of months everyone forgot about it."
So it seems you were right in the end :) It's good that you supported your thinking and then moved forward by doing what your boss requested. Nice story example!Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)Thank you, your vote helps us display the best answers!
"Recently my supervisor felt I was questioning his experience when I asked him to provide more information about a patient he assigned to me. Honestly, I was not questioning him. I was asking questions to understand the situation. He replied angrily, but I keep calm since I knew that he may have misunderstood me. Later in the shift when things were quiet, I talked to him and explained that I did not intend to disrespect him. I explained myself further, and he apologized for overreacting. I am happy we were able to resolve the situation and understand each other."
This is a good example of an unintentional disagreement! Did you learn anything from the situation? For instance, did you discover that perhaps your tone or delivery needed a bit of work, or did your supervisor take 100% responsibility for the miscommunication?Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)Thank you, your vote helps us display the best answers!
"I get along with everybody, which puts me in a high position with my supervisor and my co-workers because acceptability shows my desire to work together and highlights my creative problem-solving abilities."
Good start. With this question, you should respond with an example of a time you disagreed with a boss using the STAR method. It would be excellent to mention you talked in a calm manner and did not challenge your superior's authority.Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)Thank you, your vote helps us display the best answers!
"When we have a disagreement, I don't confront him in front of others; I ask for a 1:1. I then explain my thinking on why we do things a certain way. I explain that my mentors suggested we do it this way from their last experience and that the way they have explained wasn't the most efficient way to do it. After or before I have stated my opinion, I ask why he wanted to do it a certain way. I would hate for people to confront me in front of a big group of people. So I would do what I would want done to me."
Great response; this shows self-awareness and compassion. It's clear that you're treating your boss the same way you'd like to be treated (approached in a 1:1 setting rather than called out in front of a group, etc.) To strengthen your response, you may wish to consider including a specific occurrence where this situation occurred and how you responded.Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)Thank you, your vote helps us display the best answers!
"(Situation) A few months ago, the role of Administrative Lead came up in a different department. (Task) My boss and I disagreed about whether my assistant was right for promotion. I knew that I needed to support my case and support my recommendation for her promotion. (Action) He believed that she should remain in her current role, and I also knew she wasn't quite ready; however, I knew that we'd lose a valuable team member if she weren't given a new opportunity soon. I made a 30-day growth plan for her, along with milestones and regular check-ins. (Result) After the 30 days, my boss and I agreed to promote her since she responded very well to the additional coaching and met promotion requirements."
Excellent response! This aligns with the STAR method of interviewing perfectly, and really highlights an instance when you were able to respectfully push back on your boss, with a positive outcome. Your assistant was lucky to have such a supportive advocate in you!Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)Thank you, your vote helps us display the best answers!
"While I do get on with the vast number of people I work with, if there ever was a situation where I didn't get on with somebody, I would never let it get in the way of my professionalism and also my ability to work hard for the team and the organization as a whole."
I can see your professionalism here, but your response doesn't directly answer the question. The interviewer is trying to get an idea of how you have handled conflict in a real-world situation in the past to get an idea of how you would handle a workplace disagreement in the future. You can improve your response by sharing about how you handled an actual disagreement.Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)Thank you, your vote helps us display the best answers!
"There was a disagreement between me and my boss in regards to the key art for a show that I was working on. He wanted to feature more of the cast to tell more of the story whereas I wanted to focus on the two main leads because I didn’t want the art to look too cluttered. In order to help inform our decision, I decided to conduct episode testing and creative testing and compiled the results to make my case. The episode testing showed that the relationship between the two main leads ranked the highest favorite storyline from the series. For the creative testing, I tested different key art variations featuring different characters and the version of the two leads performed the best. I also tested the art in-situ so I can see which image would be clicked on the most on the platform and again the version of the two leads performed the best. So when I presented this data to my boss and he agreed with the data and my recommendation so that’s what I used as the hero image in the campaign. As a result, the show became the highest performing season in the series."
What a great answer! This is powerful because it shows a "data-driven" approach to solving a disagreement and letting the facts do the talking. The only suggestion I'd make is to provide more detail about how you discussed your findings with your boss.Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)Thank you, your vote helps us display the best answers!
"While working with _______, and our cloud migration, my boss wanted to deploy apps using old-style monolith builds. I insisted on doing the same using microservice-style deployments."
This is a great start. To improve your response, you should add a bit more detail here. How did you effectively communicate your viewpoint with your boss, when you each brought your own perspective? How did you work toward a resolution? In order to answer this question effectively, it's important to be able to illustrate your communication skills and problem-solving skills.Was this answer helpful? Yes (0) or No (0)Thank you, your vote helps us display the best answers!