How to Answer “How Do You Handle Conflict?” (Interview Question) (2024)

How to Answer “How Do You Handle Conflict?” (Interview Question) (1)

One of the most common behavioral interview questions: “How do you handle conflict with a coworker?” or, “How do you handle conflict in the workplace?”

Employers may also ask for a specific example of a time you had a workplace conflict and how you responded(with a question beginning with, “tell me about a time…”)

So I’m going to show you how to answer ALL possible questions about disagreements at work… with word-for-word examples, mistakes to avoid, and more.

There are a couple of key things you should mention if you want to get hired (and a couple of things you NEED to avoid saying), so make sure you read until the end.

Let’s get started…

Why Employers Ask Questions About Conflicts at Work

Employers ask interview questions about conflict and disagreements at work for a few reasons:

First, they want to make sure you’re able to communicate effectively – with coworkers, with your boss/manager, etc. Good communication can prevent some disagreements, and can almost always stop a disagreement from escalating or becoming a bigger issue.

Next, they want to make sure you stay calm and professional when dealing with conflict at work.

The last thing they want to do is hire someone who’s difficult to work with, hot-headed, and will turn small issues into bigger ones. So that’s why employers want to see that you can communicate well.

They want to see that you leave your ego behind and are willing to compromise and work with others to keep the company running smoothly.

So when they ask this question, they’re evaluating your communication and listening skills, your patience, your ability to understand the other person’s perspective, and then find a resolution or compromise that’s in the employer’s best interests (even though it’s not always what you personally wanted).

Example Answers for “Tell Me About a Conflict or Disagreement You Had With a Coworker”

If they ask for a specific time you had a conflict or disagreement with a coworker, then you need to be ready to share a story. (This is the classic format of most behavioral interview questions, where they say, “tell me about a time where…”)

So to prepare, think of one specific disagreement or conflict so that you’re ready for interview questions about the topic.

Try to pick a story where you:

  • Were able to solve the disagreement and come to a positive outcome
  • Learned something from the experience that you can share with the interviewer
  • Didn’t cost the company much time or money; you don’t want to share a massive conflict that harmed your company in a huge way

Example answer #1:

“In my last job, I reached out to a potential new client via email. I didn’t know that one of the other sales associates on the team had already been talking to this person. My coworker was initially upset, but I explained that the system hadn’t shown me that this contact had happened. They had forgotten to log the activity so I had no way of knowing. Once I shared my point of view, they understood that it was an honest mistake. We decided it would be fair to split the commission 50/50 for this new client, so we proposed this idea to our team leader, and she agreed that this was fair. We ended up landing the client and they became one of our biggest clients.”

Example answer #2:

“When I was new in my last position, one of the senior members of our team showed me a process to follow. I didn’t follow it as closely as I should have, and my results weren’t great because of it. A month later, he confronted me and asked why I wasn’t following what he had shown me.

I apologized and told him that I understood why he was upset. Then I worked with him to make sure I understood what to do moving forward.

From this mistake, I’ve learned to trust my senior team members and use the resources and people around me rather than trying to figure everything out on my own. And I learned that if I don’t understand a process or why it’s important, I can ask a question or two. But if I don’t communicate, nobody can help me. Because of this experience, I communicate better and use the resources around me to be more productive in the workplace.

That coworker ended up being one of my closest colleagues in that last job, and I became one of the top performers on our team that year.”

It’s always good to end your story on a positive note and show how you ended up turning it into a positive. So that’s why that sample answer above concludes by talking about how you became a top-performer at the company.

That’s going to eliminate any concern they have that you’ll have similar issues working with them. You never want to name a weakness or challenge that leaves them wondering if you’re just going to struggle in their job, too.

Example Answer for “How Do You Handle Disagreements and Conflict at Work?”

Along with asking for a specific story or example from your past, they may just ask something like, “how do you solve workplace conflicts?”

In this case, you can describe your overall approach to resolving conflict without sharing a specific story.

Here’s a simple way to answer, “how do you handle conflict?”

“When faced with a conflict, I like to ask questions and understand my coworker’s perspective. This helps keep the situation calm, helps them feel like they’re being heard, and after this, I’ve found it’s much easier to come to an agreement or compromise while both staying a lot calmer.”

Note: It’s still okay to share a specific story after this if you want.

To do this, you’d start with the sample answer above, but you’d go on to say, “For example, in my last job…” and then tell them about a time you used the tactics you described to resolve a conflict.

Even though this is a bit more than they asked for, it can help reinforce the point that you’re trying to make. Some hiring managers will appreciate this, and it’s a good way to set yourself apart in your answer.

Top Traits to Show When Answering Questions About Conflict Resolution

No matter how the employer phrases the question in your job interview, there are some key traits they’re always looking for (and some things they definitely DON’T want to hear when asking you how you deal with conflict).

So let’s cover that now…

1. Show them that you stay calm and that you try to understand the other person’s perspective

Disagreements happen; it’s just a normal part of being in a workplace with other people. But the interviewer wants to see that you don’t make the situation worse when it does happen.

You’ll see this in the example answers above – the sample responses we covered are designed to show employers that as soon as you recognize a conflict has occurred, you try to understand the other person’s perspective, act logically and reasonably, and deal with the conflict quickly before it becomes worse.

Show an ability to compromise and an ability to stay clear-headed when you deal with conflict, and you’ll get more job offers.

That brings me to my next key point…

2. Show them that you think logically and don’t take things personally or get too emotional

This is true when answering, “how do you make important decisions?” also. Employers want someone who will act reasonably and look at the information available so they can make the best decision based on logic and reason.

So show them that you use facts and logic to decide what to do. This will make them feel that you’re predictable and won’t act impulsively, which can be dangerous for a company (and can scare them away from hiring you).

3. Show them that you keep the company’s best interests in mind

You can see this in the first example from earlier in the article. The situation was that you and another sales associate were both chasing after the same lead (and trying to earn a commission from “closing” that lead and turning them into a client).

The WORST thing you could say here is that you lost the lead or didn’t end up succeeding in bringing them in as a client because of the internal conflict.

So, you always want to share a story where you kept the company’s best interests in mind and took action to prevent it from becoming a bigger disagreement or problem.

Follow the Steps Above and You’ll Have a Great Answer for Interview Questions about Workplace Conflicts

If you prepare a specific story for how you handle conflict, and prepare to talk about your general approach to conflicts, you’ll be ready to give an impressive answer to this interview question.

Remember to always show the hiring manager that you are:

  • Calm under pressure
  • A logical and reasonable person
  • Ego-free and focused on what’s best for the company
  • Good at communicating, listening, and compromising when necessary

…And show that you learned from the experience and used it to improve.

If you use the steps outlined above, you’ll impress the hiring manager and be more likely to get hired in your job interview!

How to Answer “How Do You Handle Conflict?” (Interview Question) (2024)


How do you answer how do you deal with conflict in an interview? ›

Follow these steps to help you successfully answer interview questions about dealing with conflict:
  1. Briefly describe the conflict that occurred. ...
  2. Mention your role in the situation. ...
  3. Explain how you approached the problem and any actions you took. ...
  4. Share results that prove how the outcome was positive.
24 Aug 2021

How do you handle conflict in your team interview questions? ›

Conflict interview questions and answers
  1. How do you handle conflict?
  2. Explain a situation when you had a conflict at work and how you handled it.
  3. How do you handle disagreements when working as part of a team? ...
  4. Explain a situation when you disagreed with your boss and how you handled it.

How do you answer Tell me about a time you had a conflict? ›

Discuss your approach

You can walk the interviewer through your thought process at the time and any steps you took to understand the conflict. For example, you can mention that you spoke to a coworker or supervisor for advice. Highlighting your emotions during the period can make your answer sound more genuine.

What are the 3 main responses to conflict? ›

The 5 Most Common Responses to Conflict
  • Avoidance. This approach to conflict reflects the belief that it is impossible to both accomplish your personal goals and maintain relationships while in a dispute. ...
  • Accommodation. ...
  • Competition. ...
  • Compromise. ...
  • Collaboration.
11 Jan 2021

What are 3 positive ways to respond to conflict? ›

The ability to successfully resolve conflict depends on your ability to:
  • Manage stress quickly while remaining alert and calm. ...
  • Control your emotions and behavior. ...
  • Pay attention to the feelings being expressed as well as the spoken words of others.
  • Be aware of and respect differences.

What are the 5 ways you can respond to conflict? ›

The five types of responses to conflict are competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, and accommodating. Each is used for particular conflict situations. Organizations can learn and grow from effective conflict resolution.

What is the best way to handle staff conflict? ›

8 Ways to Resolve Employee Conflict at Work
  1. Create an Open Door Policy. ...
  2. Determine the Severity of the Situation. ...
  3. Encourage Employees to Work Out Issues On Their Own. ...
  4. Take Action When Necessary. ...
  5. Listen to All Parties Involved. ...
  6. Document the Incident. ...
  7. Get Insight from your Employee Handbook. ...
  8. Create a Comprehensive Solution.
2 Aug 2021

What is an example of a conflict at work? ›

One Employee Has Been Accused of Harassing or Discriminating Another. Another common workplace conflict situation is addressing the opposite part of a complaint, the person to who the complaint was made against.

What is an example of a conflict in a interview? ›

Pick Good Conflict Examples:

Don't choose a minor disagreement (“He didn't want Italian for lunch“) or a conflict that was resolved by someone else or just went away without direct action. The idea here is to show off your interpersonal skills and problem-solving ability. Avoid examples that could make you look bad.

How do you handle conflict? ›

Tips for Managing Conflict
  1. Accept conflict. Remember that conflict is natural and happens in every ongoing relationship. ...
  2. Be a calming agent. ...
  3. Listen actively. ...
  4. Analyze the conflict. ...
  5. Model neutral language. ...
  6. Separate the person from the problem. ...
  7. Work together. ...
  8. Agree to disagree.

How would you describe your ability to deal with conflict? ›

There are a few points that you can emphasize to showcase your issue resolving abilities. Explain how you are skilled at resolving conflicts. Highlight your character and skills that would contribute to your problem solving proficiency. Utilize short examples of your conflict resolution capabilities.

What are the 5 examples of conflict? ›

5 examples of conflict in the workplace
  • Interdependence conflict. Interdependence is when two or more people rely on one another to complete a task or reach a goal. ...
  • Leadership conflict. ...
  • Working style conflict. ...
  • Personality conflict. ...
  • Background-based conflict.
13 Sept 2021

What are the 4 basic strategies for resolving conflicts? ›

5 conflict resolution strategies
  • Accommodating. This method of conflict resolution, also known as smoothing, involves one party acquiescing, giving the opposing party exactly what it needs to resolve the problem. ...
  • Avoiding. ...
  • Compromising. ...
  • Collaborating. ...
  • Competing.

What are the 4 types of ways we deal with conflict? ›

These approaches to conflict have their roots in real life.
Five Ways People Deal with Conflict
  • Winner takes all. ...
  • Sidestepping the issue. ...
  • Capitulation. ...
  • Compromise. ...
  • Problem-solving.

What are the 4 ways of resolving conflict? ›

4 steps To resolve Conflict: CARE
  • Communicate. Open communication is key in a dispute. ...
  • Actively Listen. Listen to what the other person has to say, without interrupting. ...
  • Review Options. Talk over the options, looking for solutions that benefit everyone. ...
  • End with a Win-Win Solution.
13 Mar 2017

What is the best example of conflict? ›

For example, if the protagonist is fighting his or her government, or is accused of a crime he or she didn't commit, these would be examples of Man vs. Society as conflict. If a protagonist is going against the grain of what his or her society and people expect, this is also an example of Man vs. Society conflict.

How do you work under pressure? ›

In this post we offer tips to help your team maintain composure and cope better with stress and pressure in the workplace.
  1. Maintain control and focus. ...
  2. Create a plan. ...
  3. Evaluate your priorities. ...
  4. Avoid procrastination… ...
  5. 5. … ...
  6. Break down tasks and simplify. ...
  7. Communicate effectively with your team. ...
  8. Execute the plan.

Why should we hire you answer best? ›

For starters, I have all the skills and experience listed in the job description, and I'm confident that I can make an immediate impact on your company. It's not just my background in leading successful projects for Fortune 500 companies, but also my passion for the industry that drives me to succeed.

How do you answer Name a time you had a conflict with a coworker? ›

How to answer "How do you handle conflict with coworkers?"
  1. Think about your previous experience. Reflect on your previous experiences and conflicts with colleagues. ...
  2. Explain your story. Share the example with the interviewer. ...
  3. Demonstrate your skills. ...
  4. Emphasize what you learned.

Can you give an example of when you have overcome a difficult challenge? ›

Full Example 1:

One of the biggest work challenges I've overcome happened at my last job. Two team members were let go and I was left with the workload of three people. I fell behind and knew I couldn't keep up in the long term, so I asked my manager for help.

How do you handle stress and pressure? ›

2. Commit to a Positive Attitude
  1. Decide what you can do. Pinpoint which parts of the situation you have the power to change or influence for the better. ...
  2. Get support. Find someone to talk to about your situation. ...
  3. Care for yourself. Take especially good care of yourself when stress in your life is high.

How would you resolve a conflict between two coworkers? ›

Keep your attention on work issues only, be assertive, and listen objectively and empathically. Reach a consensus on the nature of the issue—If the conflicting parties are arguing over the facts, ask them what they do agree on. If you can find a point of common ground, you can work from there.

What is the toughest challenge you faced interview? ›

How to answer "What is the biggest challenge you've faced in work?"
  1. Consider previous challenges you've faced. ...
  2. Tailor your answer to the job description. ...
  3. Be specific about why they were challenges. ...
  4. Be honest. ...
  5. Make sure your answers present you in a positive light. ...
  6. Use nonprofessional examples if necessary.

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