Describe a Time You Disagreed With a Coworker

Describe a Time You Disagreed With a Coworker

The job interview is a great opportunity for you and your employer to get to know one another.

When you are looking for a new job, it’s important that the next company you work for is a good fit.

Trust me, the interviewer is going to make sure it's a good fit for them.

So, you should too!

At some point in the interview process, you may be asked to describe a time you disagreed with a coworker. 

Reasons behind the question

Don’t worry!

Everyone has disagreed with a coworker at one time or another.

The interviewer is not looking for an unrealistic answer.

Anyone who's been around the block knows that working relationship will involve conflict at some point.

The reason you might be asked this question is to determine whether you are a team player, flexible, and influential.

How not to answer

First of all, this isn’t a trick question.

You want to avoid two extremes when crafting your response.

Extreme #1: Avoiding conflict at all costs

Here are a few ways you do not want to answer: 

“I get along with everybody and have never disagreed with a coworker.”

"Conflict gives me anxiety, so I just avoid confrontation." 

"If something comes up that I can't get around, I'll take the matter to the manager so I don't have to get involved."

The truth is, conflicts will arise in working relationships.

We can't avoid them, and therefore need to take a proactive approach rather than try to escape out the back door.

Extreme #2: Taking an overly aggressive stance

You also want to avoid these types of responses: 

“Nobody disagrees with me because I am always right!”

"Last time I had a conflict, I told my coworker we could take it outside and settle things. The issue didn't come up again."

Few things will look worse than appearing as though you intimidate others into agreeing with you.

How to answer

1. Demonstrate your leadership skills

  • A good leader is not someone who uses force to get what they want.
  • A good leader can influence others around them by being a team player, flexible, and influential.

Show the ways you demonstrate leadership abilities in the face of conflict.

Taking responsibility for the disagreement and taking the first step to rectify the situation will show that you have good leadership qualities.

2. Show yourself as a listener

To be all of these things, it’s important to also be a good listener.

One of the most basic yet effective conflict resolution techniques is to sit two people down, and simply take turns sharing why they feel the way they do.

I am not saying that you and your coworker should see a therapist together.

But when you are answering this question in an interview, it is important to show off your leadership skills.

Show that you took the initiative to ask your coworker what it is that they disagree with.

Demonstrate your awareness of the fact that once you understand what they disagree with, it is easier to find a solution.

A few more tips on answering

Also, remember these important elements in conflict resolution.

Try to work them into your response, if applicable:

  • Show that you did not gossip.

There are few things less professional than gossiping about a disagreement.

You don't want to mention that the conflict became fodder for water-cooler conversations for the next week or so.

  • Show that you took initiative.

It often takes time for a full-blown disagreement to arise.

If this was the case for you, mention that you took the initiative to resolve the conflict before it got worse.

  • Show that you communicated directly.

There are some things for which shooting off an email or texting back and forth just won't suffice.

State how you met with your coworker face to face to work out the disagreement.

  • Show that you sought a mutual understanding.

This goes hand in hand with the vital element of listening.

Demonstrate how you found common ground with your coworker to reach a positive outcome together.

  • Show that you remained calm and collected.

It is always difficult to keep a lid on emotions such as anger or frustration.

But in working relationships, we must maintain professionalism and respect.

Hopefully, you never let your temper get the better of you and ended up having a full-on shouting argument.

Focus on the way in which you sought and found a resolution together.

  • Show that you learned from the disagreement.

Every situation you face should be thought of as a learning experience.

When relating your disagreement during the interview, demonstrate how you turned it into a positive circumstance from which you learned something.

Sample answer

Here's an example of how to answer this interview question:

Hiring manager: "Describe a time you disagreed with a coworker."

Applicant: “About a year ago, a coworker and I had a disagreement about whom a specific account belonged to.

I requested to meet with my coworker one on one to discuss the situation.

First, I asked her to explain to me why she thought the account belonged to her.

After listening and understanding her side, we both agreed that the best way to resolve the issue would be to work the account together.

Both of us were happy to work on the account and we actually became very close friends after working together so closely.”

Here's the bottom line:

It's okay to disagree with a coworker. How you handled the disagreement is what matters.

The interviewer will be very impressed if you are able to show your interviewer that you ...

  • Listen 
  • Communicate with respect
  • Solve problems on your own

Closing thoughts

If you are interested in taking your interview preparation to the next level, check out our amazing article on the 50 Top Job Interview Questions & Answers.

If you still need some extra help refining your pitch, feel free to reach out to us at Find My Profession.

Our career finder program is sure to assist you as you are looking for a job.

Here at Find My Profession, our goal is to help you find vocational success.

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