Tell Me About A Conflict You Have Faced At Work And How You Dealt With It

Chelsea Lawler

Conflicts are not only a daily occurrence throughout one’s personal life, but they also exist within the workplace. When an interviewer asks, “Tell me about a time you were faced with a conflict and how you handled it.”, you may feel inclined to blast negative anecdotes on the individual or situation you dealt with because you are nervous about answering. Do not do this. The question is asked in order to gain insight into your behavior, interpersonal skills, and your overall ability to manage conflict. A question such as this is termed a behavioral question, in order to see how you may interact with other individuals at a professional level. During the exchange of dialogue, the interviewer may start off with standard questions, but keep in mind, this question is the most common of all interview questions. It may catch you by surprise if you do not see it coming, but with preparation you can give a poised answer.

Forming a positive example of a conflict, in which you came out on top, can be difficult to summarize in light of the difficult situation. The simplest way to prepare when answering questions about conflict is the STAR technique. The STAR acronym stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Results. Following this guideline can be an incredibly helpful format for an interviewee, as it allows the interviewee to assemble a logical, explicit, to the point, and thoughtful reply. Potential employers want you to describe a challenging situation in which you may have faced (Situation). Secondly, an interviewer wants to understand the task you had to accomplish (Task), and the action you took to carry out the task (Action). Lastly, an employer wants to hear how you overcame the challenging situation, in addition to the results of the conflict. (Results).

Examples Using STAR to Describe The Conflict

1. S & T (Situation and Task): Explain the context and overall task for the conflict that arose. Present the interviewer with enough background information in regards to the situation.

“The laborer that was assigned to my construction site was incredibly qualified for the job, however, he began to show up to work late, and therefore, he missed the shuttle to the construction site. We are on a very tight deadline, as projects on the site have to be finished quickly. As a missing employee, he was unable to get to the site, unable to do his job, therefore overall affecting our deadline to finish construction. When I confronted him about showing up late, he became very angry and blew up at me.”

2. A (Action): Explain to the interviewer the professional and productive actions you took in order to handle the conflict.

“I remained very calm when reiterating the importance of arriving to work on time. I explain that we are on a very tight deadline because of the approaching snowy weather, as it will halt construction on the site. It is very important to arrive on time to work so that the construction can be finished on time. He relaxed once he was aware I was not attacking him. He further explained that he and has wife had just welcomed two newborn babies, and he was incredibly overwhelmed. I said I understood because I have children of my own and asked if there was a way I could help him come up with a solution. Eventually, I found him another position at one of my different worksites that would accommodate a shorter day shift, so that he could be with his wife and children at night.

3. R (Results): It is imperative to end the issue of conflict on a positive note. Explain to the interviewer the overall outcome, or results, of the initial conflict.

“He apologized for becoming angry at me and we figured out a solution that would best accommodate him. As a result of the new change in worksites, he has not missed a day of work and performed his job very well. Many other workers with families have come to me to request shift changes, and I was happy to accommodate everyone due to productivity and expansion at our job sites.”

Tips to Remember When Answering A Conflict Question

  1. Choose a genuine example of a conflict.
  2. State how you specifically handled the scenario.
  3. Avoid giving an answer that could appear to be the cause of a conflict, such as a miscommunication on your behalf.
  4. Keep the story concise and be sure to stick to the main points.
  5. Practice what you are going to say, but do not memorize it word for word, as you want to appear genuine and unrehearsed.

About The Author

Chelsea Lawler

Chelsea Lawler is a recent graduate of Philadelphia University with her Master of Science degree in Fashion Apparel Studies. She graduated from Mount Aloysius College in 2010 with her Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Chelsea enjoys running her small jewelry business for vintage clothing, and traveling. With her writing at Career Igniter, she hopes to educate both students and job seekers on the various facets of the job hunting process.

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