How do you deal with interpersonal conflict?

  | James Innes

How do you deal with interpersonal conflict?

Alternative and related questions:

How did you cope with the most difficult colleague you’ve ever had?
Have you ever had problems getting on with anyone?

The meaning behind the question:

The interviewer is seeking to get a handle on how you are likely to react when faced with interpersonal conflict, in particular whether you know the 'right' way to react and what your relationship-building skills are like.

Your answer:

This question is similar in nature to the 'tough' question I covered back in Chapter 4, "How did you cope with the most difficult colleague you’ve ever had?"  The key difference, of course, is that this question asks how you cope with difficult people and difficult interpersonal situations in general, whether with a colleague or with anyone else.

You want to show the interviewer that you won't clash head-on with people, nor will you run away and hide.  You'll simply take the professional option of finding ways to deal with them, to put your relationship on a more positive footing.

And I'd suggest you start your answer off on the right foot by pointing out that you generally manage to avoid conflict most of the time.


I'm not the kind of person who lets herself get readily drawn into interpersonal conflict but, sometimes, it's obviously unavoidable.  In such cases, I’m not afraid of making my opinion politely but firmly known and I believe that communication – especially in situations involving conflicting points of view – is essential.  I certainly don’t believe in reacting aggressively, nor do I believe in ducking out of any confrontation.  It’s much more productive to try to understand people, to reason with them and to find common ground and ways of working through any difficulties there may be.  Communication is key, so is seizing the initiative to tackle the problem.

Word of warning:

Be prepared for the interviewer to follow up this question by asking what you would do if, despite your best efforts, you remained in conflict with someone.

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