5 Common Interview Questions About Conflict (With Answers)

By Jamie Birt

Updated July 22, 2022 | Published January 3, 2020

Updated July 22, 2022

Published January 3, 2020

Jamie Birt is a career coach with 4+ years of experience helping job seekers navigate the job search through one-to-one coaching, webinars and events. She’s motivated by the mission to help people find fulfillment and belonging in their careers.

This article has been approved by an Indeed Career Coach

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Interviewing for a new role gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, skills and abilities. Careful preparation for an interview may help distinguish you from other applicants. During your interview, the hiring manager may ask you questions about conflict in the workplace.

In this article, we review five common interview questions about conflict and we provide sample answers to guide your response.

Conflict interview questions and answers

Conflict interview questions are questions designed to assess how you respond to and resolve conflict in the workplace. Employers ask these questions to get an idea of how well you manage stress, as well as your ability to professionally and respectfully resolve conflict with others.

Following are five questions about conflict that an interviewer may ask:

  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? Provide an example.

  4. Explain a situation when you disagreed with your boss and how you handled it.

  5. Explain a situation when you disagreed with a rule or policy and how you handled it.

1. How do you handle conflict?

Most jobs require working with other people, and differences in personalities, perspectives and opinions may lead to conflict. Employers want to assess your ability to respond to these situations respectfully and professionally. When answering this question, be honest about how you handle these situations. If you struggle with conflict, admit to it and explain how you are working to improve ways you manage it. 

Sample Answer: “In most cases, I handle conflict well. I value diversity and understand that different people have different opinions, which may lead to conflict. When faced with conflict, I work to collaborate with others to resolve the issue in a way that is mutually beneficial for everyone involved. Sometimes, I can become defensive when trying to express my opinion. I am practicing tactics to manage this behavior, such as pausing to take a deep breath and carefully considering my words before responding.”

2. Describe a situation when you had a conflict at work and how you handled it.

This question provides an example that allows employers to assess your conflict resolution skills based on an actual event in your experience. It helps them assess how you respond to conflict with coworkers and how you work on a team. It also gives you the opportunity to explain how you’ve actually responded to conflict in the past.

To answer this question, provide an example from your work history when you had a conflict with a coworker. It can be helpful to use the STAR method for your response. The STAR method stands for:

  • Situation: Describe the conflict or challenge.

  • Task: Explain your role in the conflict.

  • Action: Discuss the steps you took to resolve the conflict.

  • Result: Describe the results of your actions.

Example: “While working on a project for a previous employer, one of my team members regularly challenged every solution I presented. He also had a tendency to interrupt and talk over others without listening to their input. I experienced a challenge in maintaining my patience when he interrupted others without listening. It reached a point where our respective managers counseled both of us on our behavior.

“To resolve this conflict, I had to recognize that I cannot change or control his behavior. I also acknowledged that this behavior, from both of us, was likely a result of stress due to the heavy workload of the project. Therefore, I adjusted my own communication style to increase empathy, avoid triggers and build patience with interruptions. We were able to complete the project and maintain polite correspondence whenever we needed to work together after that.”

Related: Top Tips for Using the STAR Method

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3. How do you handle disagreements when working as part of a team? Provide an example.

When working on a team, conflict may arise between different people at any time. Your response to this question can demonstrate your ability to collaborate effectively with a variety of working styles.  

When answering this question, explain how you respond to disagreements between multiple people and how you work to resolve them to accomplish the team goals. Provide an example from your experience that illustrates how you handle disagreements between team members. Try using the STAR method to form a thorough response. 

Example: “In my previous experience, I was working with a group to prepare a presentation for leadership. The group was responsible for conceptualizing an idea and presenting a project plan to implement the idea. We selected an idea and developed an action plan for completing the presentation. Two of the team members wanted to hold daily meetings to discuss the plan and progress. Other team members, including myself, disagreed with this approach because the team had a log to report task progress and completion. 

“As long as everyone knew their assigned tasks, we did not think we needed to divert time for meetings that would not move the project forward. We also thought these meetings would use valuable time needed to complete the project. Instead of starting an argument about the meetings, we gathered everyone together to explain their reasoning for their side. Eventually, we decided to hold a daily meeting that would last no more than ten minutes to provide short updates on task progress.”

Related: 12 Tough Interview Questions and Answers

4. Explain a situation in which you disagreed with your manager and how you handled it.

Just as you could experience a conflict with team members, you may have also disagreed with a manager in the past. This question could determine how you respond to disagreements when it is with an authority figure and how it could impact your ability to perform assigned tasks. 

Your response can show your ability to follow instructions and how you approach a disagreement with your manager or supervisor. When answering this question, provide an honest example of when you disagreed with a supervisor and how you were able to resolve that conflict. 

Example: “When preparing data about the success of past projects to request funding for a new project in our department, a supervisor asked me to delete data records for projects that were less successful. I knew that deleting these records would skew the results and representation of our past performance. I expressed this concern to my supervisor, but she insisted that I remove the data. 

“After careful consideration, I decided to discuss the issue with the next level of management, which dismissed my concerns and supported the decision to remove the data. Ultimately, I removed data as directed, but I also changed the language in the report to clearly communicate that the reported data represented successful projects to ensure I accurately represented the information. I also documented the situation, including data records removed from reported results, in the event of questioning or an audit. 

“I understood my supervisor’s decision for the request, but I could not compromise my values. I tried to create a compromise in removing the data and adding the language. We did eventually receive funding for our project based on the reports.” 

Related: How To Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

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5. Describe a situation in which you disagreed with a rule or policy and how you handled it.

In previous positions, you may have encountered guidelines that you didn’t feel comfortable following. This question allows you to explain why or why not you would perform assigned tasks even when you disagree with the rule or policy related to the duty.

To answer this question, provide an example of a rule or policy that you disagreed with, how you expressed your disagreement and how you reconciled the disagreement to ensure you could perform your duties as assigned.

Example: “In one of my previous jobs, the human resources director wanted to capture personal identifying information—such as social security numbers—on job applications. He was insistent that the information would be secure, and though I believed him, I still disagreed with this practice. I understood that human resources needed to collect this information at the point of hire to verify employment eligibility, but I did not agree with collecting it from every applicant. 

“I expressed my opinion that requiring this information on the application could negatively impact our talent pool, but also acknowledged that I was not a human resources professional and it was not my decision. The human resources director acknowledged my opinion, but believed it was the best practice. I trusted him as the experienced professional to make the correct choice.”

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