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How do you handle conflict?


Disciplines > Job-finding > Interview questions > How do you handle conflict?

The question | What they are looking for | How to answer | See also


The question

How do you handle conflict?

What do you do when people start arguing?

If somebody got angry with you, what would you do?

Tell me about a time when you disagreed with somebody else?

What they are looking for

This question seeks to find out what you do when things get difficult during a situation of conflict. Variants on the question might put you in the conflict or you as a bystander or manager who has to sort it out.

It looks first at your emotional response, and whether you retain control or fall into an automatic response such as fight-or-flight. It then looks for how effective your strategies are at controlling others who are in an emotional state and whether you can successfully mediate to an acceptable conclusion.

How to answer

First pick a situation that shows your ability to handle conflict. Be careful to use an example where you are not the antagonist. Also beware of making you appear as being treated as a victim by others. Unless you are asked for a situation where you were in conflict with another, it is safer here to use one where you were mediator.

Recently, the IT Manager and the Marketing Manager have been niggling at one another, which has disrupted and distracted the business strategy meeting. It was clear that they were unable to resolve it between themselves so I decided to intervene.

Then show that you are in control of yourself. Use a situation where many people would become emotional, where you can demonstrate your emotional intelligence.

They started shouting at one another at last month's meeting and would not stop, so I stood up and shouted 'Look at that!'. It got their attention and in the pause I brought them down by lowering my voice and asking if we could talk openly about this. I brought in the rest of the team and facilitated an open dialogue session. When they realized the affect they were having on others, they agreed to be more considerate.

Show also that you can resolve the conflict, not just put it off or otherwise 'win the battle but not the war'.

I spent time with each of the afterwards, drawing out their differences and similarities. When I had found the real root issues, I brought them together to help find a lasting solution. They are now on good terms again.

See also

Stress, Emotional Intelligence

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