How to answer “Can you tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss?” in a job interview. These conflict resolution interview questions can be tricky. Take a look at our example answer and tips.
There are several reasons why interviewers ask this question. They want to know if the candidate is rational and confident enough to disagree with a manager or boss, but it’s also to examine someone’s maturity to accept decisions even when he/she disagrees. Structure your answer according to the CARL-method:
Example Answer (With Experience)
Context: “As a [Job title] at [Company XYZ], I once disagreed with my boss on a contract we were about to sign with a client. I had been negotiating back and forth with the client in the build up to the agreement. For some reason, I had a gut feeling they were going to be extremely difficult to collaborate with.
Action: Instead of questioning my boss’ authority in front of everyone, I asked to speak to him privately. I was open and honest about my concerns and explained the reasons why. However, my boss stated we were not in a position to turn down clients due to the current financial situation the company was in.
Results: As a result, we proceeded with the negotiation and eventually signed the contract. It turned out the client had a drive for detail but was actually pretty easy to work with.
Learning: What I’ve learned from this experience, is to not make assumptions that are solely based on previous communication.”
Example Answer (No Experience)
“I remember arguing with a teacher who gave me a lower grade on [Subject] than expected. I usually never argue and accept the grading system, but this time I was annoyed by the fuzzy and indistinct reasons.
So I performed additional research, scheduled another meeting, shared my insights and explained how I thought my answers deserved a higher grade. I stayed rational and reasonable and gave a response that was clear, concise and to the point. As a result, the teacher increased my grade.
She appreciated my efforts and we set specific metrics for me to adjust some methods of formulating and substantiating answers. This experience helped me develop my skills, improved my confidence to speak up and my connection with this teacher.”
Interview Question Tips
- Don’t speak negatively about your previous boss (e.g. ‘My boss is a stubborn person’, ‘He was always blamed me, I don’t know why’ or ‘He never liked me’)
- Don’t try to convince the interviewer about your point of view or say that your colleagues sided with you. Explain what action(s) you took and the results.
- Don’t become evasive (avoiding the question) or say that you’ve never had a disagreement. If you’ve never experienced conflict or disagreement, you can provide a hypothetical situation.
- Do give a specific situation where you disagreed with your boss and explain why. Try to come across as someone with a professional attitude and provide a rational explanation (with reason and logic) about the situation and how you handled/diffused the disagreement.