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How to Answer “Tell Me About a Time You Dealt with a Difficult Coworker or Supervisor”

This interview question can be tricky to answer, but it’s also a great opportunity to showcase your conflict-resolution skills and professionalism. Read on to learn what hiring managers are looking for and how to structure your response.

What is the hiring manager looking for?

Hiring managers ask this question to assess your ability to handle challenging interpersonal situations, your conflict-resolution skills, and your professionalism. They want to know that you can maintain a positive attitude and remain productive even when faced with difficult people.

How to structure your answer

Here’s a simple structure you can use to answer this question:
1. The Situation: Briefly describe the situation or relationship that was challenging.
2. Your Role/Actions: Explain the specific actions you took to address the situation.
3. The Outcome: Discuss the positive outcome or resolution that resulted from your actions.

Tips to answer this interview question

– Be honest and authentic in your response.
– Focus on your own actions and behaviors, rather than blaming the other person.
– Emphasize the positive steps you took to resolve the situation.
– Use specific examples to illustrate your points.

Things to Avoid:
– Don’t dwell on the negative aspects of the situation or the other person.
– Don’t make excuses for your behavior or the other person’s behavior.
– Don’t get defensive or angry.

Example interview answers to this question

Sample Answers:

1. Situation: “I had a coworker who was consistently late to work and often missed deadlines. This caused a lot of stress and extra work for the rest of the team.”

Role/Actions: “I spoke to my coworker privately about the issue and tried to understand their perspective. I also worked with my manager to develop a plan to address the situation. We agreed that my coworker would receive additional training and support, and that they would be held accountable for meeting deadlines in the future.”

Outcome: “After implementing the plan, my coworker’s performance improved significantly. They were no longer late to work and they were able to meet all of their deadlines. The team was able to work more effectively and productively as a result.”

Explanation: This answer is strong because it demonstrates the candidate’s ability to address a difficult situation in a professional and constructive manner. The candidate focused on their own actions and behaviors, rather than blaming the other person. They also emphasized the positive steps they took to resolve the situation, which led to a positive outcome.

2. Situation: “I had a supervisor who was very micromanaging and didn’t trust me to do my job. This made it difficult for me to be productive and creative.”

Role/Actions: “I tried to talk to my supervisor about the issue, but they were not receptive to my feedback. I decided to document all of the instances of micromanagement and brought them to the attention of my manager. I also worked with my team members to develop strategies for dealing with the supervisor’s behavior.”

Outcome: “After my manager spoke to the supervisor, the micromanagement stopped. I was able to work more independently and creatively, and my productivity improved. The team was also able to work better together.”

Explanation: This answer is strong because it demonstrates the candidate’s ability to handle a difficult supervisor in a professional and productive manner. The candidate took steps to address the issue directly with the supervisor, and when that didn’t work, they brought it to the attention of their manager. They also worked with their team members to develop strategies for dealing with the supervisor’s behavior.

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