Employers want to know that you are respectful of your leaders. While you do not always have to agree with your leader, the interviewer wants to see that you respond to them with kindness and respect.
Talk about a time when your boss made a choice to which you did not agree. Explain how you responded. The key to successfully answering this question is to impress upon the interviewer that you are a respectful employee who treats others with dignity and kindness. If you are newer to your career, you can draw from a post-secondary example (Perhaps you had a conflict with a professor).
"I had a conflict with a manager earlier in my career. One of our team members skipped out on work six times in one month, and I was always asked to cover their shift last minute. I was frustrated and could not understand why my manager wasn't just terminating the employee. I reacted hastily, and the manager patiently reminded me that he had his reasons. He explained that he asked me to cover the shifts because he liked me and I was reliable. It turns out the absent employee had serious health concerns, and our manager was trying to be empathetic without disclosing the situation to our team. I felt terrible and learned that sometimes things aren't always as they seem. I apologized, and all was well."
"There are times when I have asked questions or brought up suggestions that challenged a boss or coworker. We resolved the matter with humility and the intent to resolve the problem while better understanding the opposing viewpoint."
"One of my first bosses was very hard to get along with as his expectations were often unreasonable and would come with little explanation. I stayed with him for about two years and left when I knew I was no longer benefitting from his leadership. I did keep my head down for the most part, but the benefit came to me at a later time, when I took on my first management role. I knew what I did not want to be like and thus, the experience helped to shape my management style."
"I had a boss that was incredibly skilled at his job but was overly direct. He led with tough love, and while that worked for him and some people, it did not go well with the graphic designer on our team. I tried to stick up for her and let him know that while his heart was in the right place, his approach wasn't effective and was hurting her productivity. At first, it was a conflict because he felt insulted that I was questioning his management, but finally, we were able to come to an understanding, and he considered a new approach for her and the employees in general. I was happy that I stood up for her in a tactful way and the department was better off as a result."
"One of my first mentors shared with me a nugget of knowledge: if you're comfortable, you're not growing. So, I try to seek out opportunities for small discomfort whenever possible. I keep a running list of things that I have identified as areas for improvement in the department and bring them up tactfully with my boss. When I lay out the reasons for the upgrades, she lets me tackle the issue. Occasionally she pulls rank and says no, and though it's frustrating, I know that she must know more than I do, so I bite my tongue and put my head down and get back to work."
"I have disagreed on many occasions with professors or bosses, but there have only been a few times where it has come to a head. One instance that comes to mind was regarding the distribution of my accounts when I was transitioning to another role. My boss had a plan that conflicted with the recommendations, which was a problem because I know some of my accounts specifically disliked those account managers. I laid out the reasons why I was upset and frustrated with the decisions he was making. He explained why he was making them, and in the end, we identified three accounts that could be switched around so that everyone was happy and the branch didn't lose any business."
"I have experienced conflict with the student of a parent recently, which was quite unnerving. The parent misunderstood the grade that their child came home with and came down hard on me via email, and then by calling my Principal the following day. I called the parent immediately, asking for a face to face meeting. Once we met in person and I was able to walk the parent through the project, and expectations, they realized their child did indeed breeze over a lot of the work. A face to face meeting made all of the difference in that situation."
"I once worked with a supervisor who did not provide any timeline for the projects he assigned to me, yet became extremely agitated when I did not deliver within a few hours. As I had no idea he had such timelines in mind, I requested a meeting with him to tell him about my concerns and that I can absolutely adjust to tight deadlines, however I require prior adequate notice so that I can organize my days accordingly and delegate other duties if necessary. I also told him I cannot anticipate he would want something done right away upon receipt. He told me he did not realize he had provided unclear instructions and promised to be more clear in the future, which he were."
"My most recent supervisor and I had a strong work relationship and she will be willing to give you a strong reference on my behalf. We did not run into any difficulty while working together."
"In my career, I have had many different supervisors with different leadership styles. I did have one supervisor in the past that was new to being a supervisor. We may not have seen see eye to eye on everything but because of those differences we challenged each other and worked really well together."
"When I was in college, someone in my class stole a copy of a final exam before it was given and distributed copies to others in the class. The instructor found out said that, unless the person who stole the test came forward, the whole class would be given an 'F' for their grades. I had been approached by someone with a copy of the test and I privately told the instructor that I knew who had taken the exam. The instructor was kind enough to keep our conversation private and made a new test to be administered. I didn't want to be involved in the frustration of the situation, but I also didn't want innocent students to receive failing grades because of someone else's bad decision."