Tell Me a Time You Resolve a Conflict

Interview Question: Tell Me a Time You Resolve a Conflict

Disagreements and conflict abound in every aspect of life, be it work, school, home, or religious setting. Often, people disagree on so many things including how to best move the organization forward. Although it is good to have employees competing to improve the business or company, it becomes dangerous when it turns to conflict. Not only does it create an unhealthy work environment, but it also inhibits productivity, growth, and teamwork which are essential in every firm or agency. Additionally, employees who are conflicting with each other rarely reach their full potential since they are always trying to outdo the other.

Similarly, being the best fit for a role encompasses much more than having the best qualification, experience, or tact. When working, you might need to interact with different stakeholders, clients, and colleagues who may have different opinions from yours. Hence, interviewers and employers are keen to know how you will handle conflicts at work. Relatively, the hiring manager often aims to know how you will use your emotional intelligence to approach and resolve conflict when it arises.

Therefore, employers and interviewers ask some behavioral questions to unravel your interpersonal skills; a good example is a question- tell me a time you resolve a conflict. Research has shown that a job applicant’s response to questions related to interpersonal skills gives an insight into their personality and abilities; it also enables the hiring manager to know if the candidate(s) can function or coexist as part of a team. Remember, behavioral interview questions are employed by companies based on the belief that an investigation into past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.

However, such behavioral interview questions can fluster candidates and might even screen out good performers. To avoid this, practice as hard as you can; be confident in your abilities, and demonstrate your knowledge and skills. The key to standing out among other job applicants is careful preparation, honesty, and confidence. In relation, questions about conflict in the workplace are asked to prepare you for the challenges you might face if hired. Thus, it is up to you to provide a convincing response that can potentially make you get the job. Therefore, this article will focus on the meaning of conflict, why interviewers ask the question, and provide a guide on how to answer the question.


What is Conflict and Conflict Resolution?

A conflict is a struggle and a clash of interest, opinion, or even principles. Conflict will always be found in society, as the basis of conflict may vary to be personal, racial, class, caste, political, and international. Also, conflict may be emotional, intellectual, and theoretical, in which case academic recognition may or may not be a significant motive. Similarly, conflict can be viewed as an activity that takes place when conscious beings wish to carry out mutually inconsistent acts concerning their wants, needs, or obligations. There must be at least two individuals involved for conflict to occur.

On the other hand, conflict resolution is a way for two or more parties to find a peaceful solution to a disagreement. When a dispute arises, the best chance or course of action is negotiation to resolve the disagreement. Also, conflict resolution is conceptualized as the methods and processes involved in facilitating the peaceful ending of conflict and retribution. Committed group members attempt to resolve group conflicts by actively communicating information about their conflicting motives or ideologies to the rest of the group. The term conflict resolution can also be used interchangeably with dispute resolution, where arbitration and litigation processes are critically involved.


Why Do Hiring Managers Ask Candidates to Discuss a Time You Resolved a Conflict?

Interviewers ask the question on a time you resolved a conflict because of the following reasons;

  • To have an idea of how well job candidates work under stress.
  • To ascertain and determine the job applicants’ ability to manage stress.
  • Also, the hiring manager wants to decipher the job seeker’s aptitude to respectfully and professionally resolve conflict with others.
  • The interviewer is interested in finding out job applicants’ interpersonal and problem-solving skills.
  • The employer seeks examples of how you’ve handled specific situations in the past by asking this question.


The Best Way to Answer the Question- Tell Me a Time You Resolve a Conflict

The question is an example of questions that allows organizations and hiring managers to assess the candidate’s conflict resolution skills based on an actual event in their experience. Also, the employer can decrypt how candidates react to conflicts with colleagues and how they work on a team. Analysts on behavioral actions have suggested that the STAR method is the ideal tool for answering this type of question. STAR is an acronym that denotes or stands for situation, task, action, and result. This method has proven to be successful because it gives an overview and details of a particular event. Bear in mind that the interview process is about the business problem that the interviewer has. Your job is to link your experiences to that problem so that the hiring manager can see that you are the answer to that problem. Therefore, the following excerpts from the STAR method can be used to answer the question;

  1. Describe the exact situation that led to the conflict.
  2. Explain your role in the conflict
  3. Discuss the steps you took to resolve the conflict
  4. Describe the results of your actions.

Describe the exact situation that led to the conflict: This should be the preface of your response or narrative. Here, you should provide the background on the particular experience and what your involvement was. Thus, try and describe in detail the conflict or challenge. This can either be a clash of ideas, rudeness on your or the other party’s part, or disagreement on roles for a project. Preferably, your example should be in an official setting; remember, the hiring manager expects you to be professional throughout even though the question seems to be personal.

Explain your role in the conflict: After the situation comes to the task. In the task aspect of the STAR method, you are expected to describe the challenge you faced and what the expected outcome was. For this question, you should explain your role in the conflict. Did you start the argument? Were you the protagonist or antagonist of the conflict? What did you do to infuriate your colleague? How did you react after being provoked? Did you insist that the team adopt your suggestion? These are some of the things to elaborate on when discussing your part in the disagreement that led to the conflict.

Discuss the steps you took to resolve the conflict: Next is the action. This element avails you the opportunity to detail the action you took in response to the challenge. Words like “I” or “we” should always suffice when applicable. Thus, discuss the steps you took to resolve the conflict. Endeavor to provide details of the actions without ambiguity. Similarly, the interviewer expects you to be specific; don’t beat around the bush when narrating your actions. Instead, be confident and elaborate on the strides you took to restore order and put an end to the conflict.

Describe the results of your actions: Results form the final part of the STAR method. When describing the results of your actions, explain the outcome and the business impact; ensure that they are relevant to the position you are interviewing for. What was the outcome of the steps you took to resolve the conflict? Did your actions prove to be successful? Were you able to agree with the other party? Was your supervisor or manager impressed by your actions? Did your actions lead to greater teamwork and productivity? Elaborate on these questions when describing the results or outcome of the steps you took to resolve the conflict.


Things to Consider When Answering Conflict Resolution Questions

It is advisable to remember the following emotionally intelligent habits when preparing to answer conflict-resolution interview questions;

  1. Fostering mutual understanding and relationships with colleagues or coworkers
  2. Bolstering effective communication in the workplace rather than allowing underlying resentment and anger to prolong the conflict.
  3. Enhance active listening; don’t just hear your coworkers, employ or adopt focused listening.
  4. Act and react objectively in the workplace.
  5. If the conflict arises repeatedly, take steps to resolve the matter effectively.


Sample Answers to the Question: Tell Me a Time You Resolve a Conflict

I remember a time in my previous role as a customer service supervisor in a sports retail shop. A customer called and he was angry that he had waited more than three weeks for a reply from our sales team regarding a product query.

I needed to address the customer’s immediate concern and find out what went wrong in the normal query-response process.

I apologized to the customer and took down his details, and then passed them to our head of sales who contacted the customer within the hour. I investigated why the inquiry hadn’t been answered. I discovered that it was a combination of a wrong mobile number and an old email address that the customer was no longer checking. I let the customer know and I input all of his new contact information and then we offered a goodwill discount on his next order.

The customer not only continued to order from us but also tweeted about his positive experience, and wrote up a five-star review for our business.

While working on a project for a previous employer, one of my team members regularly challenged every solution and suggestion I presented. She also tended to interrupt and talk over others without listening to their input. I experienced a challenge in maintaining my patience when she 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 her behavior. I also acknowledged that the behavior from both of us was likely a result of stress due to the heavy workload of the project. Therefore, I adjusted my 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.

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