The workplace is a dynamic landscape. At its best, this diverse array of people, experiences, opinions and points of view can mesh to accomplish truly remarkable feats. Those moments leave us all feeling like we are part of something amazing.
On the other hand, personalities, communication styles and personal agendas can clash and create tension, frustration and conflict. We all know this propensity for conflict exists because at some point in our professional lives, we’ve all been involved in it. Conflict is not necessarily negative. It can lead to personal growth, a deeper and more effective understanding of your teammates and if handled correctly, it can be a catalyst for positive change. Hiring managers understand this. And are likely to ask you questions about how you responded to conflict in past work environments. So be prepared to discuss examples from your employment history. Here are a few quick tips to keep you on the right track.
- Understand Why Conflict Resolution is Important: it’s important because it is an inevitable part of your work life. By asking you about it, employers are looking to better understand how you approach difficult situations, how you view yourself and how you see your role within a team setting. Are you someone who fans the flames and holds a grudge? Or are you the kind of person that looks for resolution and a solution that diffuses conflict and keeps the focus on driving positive outcomes? Have a few examples ready that demonstrate you are a problem-solver.
- Maintain a Professional Demeanor: when speaking about how you responded to past conflict, maintain a professional attitude and speak as if you were talking to a client. Remember to put your personal feelings aside and provide a non-biased, clinical narrative of what happened. If you can’t speak about a particular situation from your past without getting angry or flustered then choose another example.
- Move Beyond Blame: placing the blame on others, even if you are right to do so, can come across as not taking ownership of your part in the conflict. Instead, focus on describing how you responded. Employers don’t care whose fault it was, only what you did to help resolve the conflict and get the team back on track.
- Illustrate How You Think: take the opportunity to showcase your thought process and problem-solving skills. Start by describing the challenge or issue that you had to overcome. Discuss how you formulated a plan to address the challenge and walk the interviewer through the steps you took to address the issue and create a positive outcome. Answering the question in this way demonstrates ownership, professionalism and shows that you have a thoughtful, structured approach to tackling important issues.
- Leverage Your Knowledge of the Employer’s Culture: successful candidates walk into an interview with a good understanding of a potential employer’s basic culture and values. When responding to questions about conflict, be sure to incorporate this knowledge into your answer. For instance, some cultures are more collaborative and place a premium on team work (looking for answers with the word “we” in it). Other organizations are more entrepreneurial and place a premium on personal initiative and contributions (looking for answers with the word “I” in it). Be sure to phrase your answer in the most appropriate way and focus on the details that matter most to the potential employer.