Answering "Tell Me About A Conflict You've Had With A Coworker"

If an interviewer asks you, “Tell me about a conflict you had with a coworker and how you resolved it” you might be thinking to yourself, “How am I suppose to be answering that?” It can be very difficult to express a poor situation and come out of it with the interviewer impressed.

There are two other types of questions the interviewer might ask which are applicable here. The variations would be, “What do you do if you disagree with a coworker?” and “How do you handle a difficult situation with your coworker?” In both situations, you can use the below guide to help answer. The interviewer is looking for a very similar line of thinking. Though you may want to change the question from being past-tense to present-tense.

Why Does The Interviewer Ask About Conflict Resolution

Interviewers usually ask this question to gauge your experience level working with others. This will be tested more when you are interviewing for leadership or management positions since your communication methods are going to be more stressed. Conflict resolution is a common thing within the workplace. Knowing how to resolve conflicts without burning relationships and causing more working hardship is a serious skill. Interviewers ask you this question to get an idea of where you fit within the spectrum of work experience.

What Type Of Interview Question Is This

Because this interview question has you describe something situations, that makes it a behavioral interview question. An interview question that isn’t a behavioral one would be considered, “What makes you unique?” An interview such as that isn’t behavioral because it lacks what the STAR (Situation/Task/Action/Result) method aims to solve.

Using The STAR Method Will Give You The Structure For The Answer

You’ll hear about the STAR method often. STAR stands for Situation/Task, Action, Result. This means that you’ll want to set up the situation that you were in when answering the question, the action that you made (which is the conflict resolution part in this instance) and the result that it had.

So with the STAR method, just be sure that your answer contains the following types of topics within your answer. Be sure that you don't spend more than 15-20 seconds on each part of the integrated STAR answer. By having a too long of an answer, it might accidentally indicate some emotional-tie to the previous situation, which could come across unprofessional. The topics you'll want to include are:

  • Situation — What was happening before the conflict and during the conflict
  • Action — This means what action that you took to resolve the conflict
  • Result — This means what result happened from the resolution to the conflict that you took, ideally this means communication

Craft Your Situation Around The Job You’re Applying For

Be sure that when you’re answering this question, you choose a conflict that speaks to the position that you are applying for. For example, if you have a conflict situation with a coworker from a previous job where your role was the same or similar to the one that you are applying for. That’s because the interviewer is looking for you to explain your teamwork experience when working in the job function you are interviewing for.

We’re going to go over some example answers by department so that you can understand how you might express situations from your past that would answer this behavioral interview question correctly and impress the interviewer.

2 Example Answers To Conflict Resolution For The Marketing Department

“It was a few days before one of our team projects were due. And there were a few last remaining tasks that we needed to get done as a team. Our team was having difficulty deciding on the next line items to work on. I created my suggestions but it seemed to make my coworker upset. I took them aside, asked them if there was something I did that upset them and how I could change? They responded with the fact that they felt unheard. I mentioned I would make sure that I would give her the floor to speak more. Since then, we’ve worked great together.”

“A coworker and I were working on a PPC campaign. We couldn’t find out the results were. We struggled to agree upon what the measurement was. Instead of going to our boss to ask, I asked my coworker to take a risk on my intuition this time and that I would take a risk on hers next time. We agreed, moved forward and ended up succeeding with our campaign.”

2 Example Answers To Conflict Resolution For The Sales Department

“A colleague and I were on the road. We had a flight in a few hours but need to see a few more clients. We had difficulty agreeing upon which client we should see before we left. I asked him, is there a reason why you felt strongly about seeing the clients you are proposing? I realized through the conversation that he might have been right. We continued with his plan and had a great few sales meetings!”

“A colleague and I were in a sales meeting. I could sense during the meeting that I might have said something that my colleague didn’t like. I could sense some hostility. Afterward, I asked him, “Is there something I can do better in those meetings?” He opened up and told me his feelings. It went well and we ended up continuing to work better together.”

2 Example Answers To Conflict Resolution For The Creative Department

“There was a tight deadline approaching for some of our work as a team. My colleague was behind on their work. I was feeling stressed from it and communicated in a poor way at first, asking them to move more quickly. I realized this wasn’t great. I could send their demeanor changing. I went back quickly, apologized and then asked if there was anything I could do to help them. After that, the process went smoothly, we hit our deadline.”

“During the team meeting there was a colleague who ended up expressing some frustration with our team process. I wanted to make sure I was part of the solution. So I asked them if there was something we as a team could be doing better. It seemed that getting the floor and asking for their opinion helped. We ended up taking some of the recommendations they made.”

2 Example Answers To Conflict Resolution For The Operations Department

“A team was seemingly not able to work well together for some reason. I got the team together and asked them a question: what could we be doing better? By asking this question I was able to figure out what I could offer them back to help do their jobs better. It was effective.”

“A colleague that was on a team wasn't as happy as the rest of the team. I felt as though there might have been something that particular employee felt off-put about. So I decided to take them aside and ask them if everything was okay. It happened to be a problem at home vs. a problem at work. I didn’t want them to tell me in too much detail. But I appreciated the effectiveness of simply asking if everything is okay.”

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur,, SparkHire, and many more.


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