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How to Answer “Tell Me About a Conflict or Disagreement With a Boss”

By | Jenna Jonaitis |

Being asked, “Tell me about a time you had a conflict with your boss,” in a job interview can feel like a trick. Is the interviewer just fishing for reasons to disqualify you? Are they trying to hint that your potential new boss is unusually conflict-prone?

But this prompt is actually just a straightforward example of a behavioral interview question—a subset of interview questions designed to get you talking about a past experience in order to give the interviewer a real-life look at how you approached a challenging situation. In this case, they want to hear how you have and would handle conflicts or disagreements with a superior.

How else might this question be asked?

“Tell me about a time you had a conflict with your boss” is only one of the ways an interviewer might phrase a question like this. They might also say:

  • “Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with your manager.”
  • “Tell me about a time you disagreed with a decision made at work.”
  • “Tell me about a conflict you’ve faced at work.”
  • “Tell me about a time you disagreed with how your boss handled something.”
  • “How do you handle disagreements with your supervisor?”
  • “Have you ever disagreed with a company or department policy? How did you deal with that?”

While all these questions are getting at the same type of situation, pay attention to how your interviewer words it. For example, a decision made at work could have been made by your boss, a coworker, or an entire team. And a conflict generally implies something a bit more serious than a disagreement or at least that you confronted the person you disagreed with in some way.

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