How to Answer the Interview Question: "What Would You Do if You Had a Personal Issue With Someone on Your Team?"
The interview question "What would you do if you had a personal issue with someone in your team?" is often asked in interviews.
In reality, getting along with everyone in the workplace doesn't always happen. Personal issues and conflicts occur as part of day-to-day work.
While we would like to get on with everyone in our team, conflicts can happen, and we have to deal with them.
This article will look at the different ways this question could be worded in an interview – also, why employers ask this question and ways you can answer it positively.
There are many ways to ask the question, "What would you do if you had a personal issue with someone on your team?"
This question is actually assessing a few competencies focused on how a candidate deals with conflict in the workplace.
This means that employers can word the 'How do you deal with conflict?' interview question in various ways.
Some interviewers may ask a direct question such as:
- "How do you deal with conflict?"
- "How do you handle conflict?"
- "How do you deal with conflict between team members?"
- "How do you handle conflict in the workplace?"
Other interviewers may ask for an example:
- "Describe a time when you have disagreed with someone you work with"
- "What would you do if you had a personal issue with someone on your team?"
Sometimes the questions need you to provide an answer to both direct and example-based questions.
For example, an interviewer may ask the interview question, 'How do you handle conflict between team members in the workplace?’ Then follow up with, 'Give me an example of when you have had to deal with conflict in the workplace'.
These questions are all different ways of finding out how you would handle it and what you would do if you had a personal issue on your team.
When preparing for this question, it is important to understand why employers ask this question.
In the workplace, conflicts between team members happen. Asking what would you do if you had a personal issue with someone else on your team is a way to assess many different competencies and behaviors that are important for success in the workplace.
Finding out what a candidate would do if they had a personal issue with someone on their team highlights their communication and interpersonal skills.
A large part of communication is around listening to others’ perspectives and points of view, especially when handling conflict.
The answer provided by candidates demonstrates to the interviewer how they communicate with others – both written and verbally when dealing with difficult situations.
A skill required by all employers is the ability to work in a team.
Asking how you deal with conflict between team members allows you to demonstrate your teamworking skills, as well as show how you work with others in difficult situations.
This provides the interviewer with practical situations where the candidates have shown teamworking skills when there is a conflict.
Everyone deals with conflicts in different ways.
Asking questions about how a candidate deals with conflict gives the interviewer an insight into how a candidate approaches a problem – also, the steps they take to resolve conflicts to ensure a positive outcome.
How a candidate handles conflict in the workplace gives an indication of how committed they are to the team and organization they work for.
Asking a candidate about conflict helps the interviewer to determine whether the candidate is committed to working things out for the team's good and the benefit of the organization – even if the candidate had to compromise or focus on themselves.
When answering a question on what would you do if you had a personal issue with someone else on your team, employers are assessing:
- That you can stay professional and positive in challenging situations
- That you can remain calm in situations where there is conflict
- How you go about dealing with situations where there is conflict or disagreements
- That you have conflict resolution skills – for example, that you can focus on the facts and can solve the problems positively
- That you are a team player and can show this when dealing with conflict – that you can take responsibility for your actions
It is worth knowing what employers are definitely not looking for when asking how you handle conflict:
- For you to state that you have never been in a situation where there have been conflicting opinions
- For you to provide an answer that is generalized or one that doesn't directly answer the question
- That the conflict situation you are describing didn't end positively
- That you shy away from tackling disagreements or conflict
- That you respond to conflict situations emotively and blame others (rather than keeping a level head and focusing on the facts)
- That so long as the outcome is favorable for you, you consider this to have been a positive result
Being aware of what employers are looking for in your answer will help you pick a suitable example to share in an interview.
In the same way that there are many ways to ask the question, there are many ways to answer it.
Answering questions on how we deal with conflict situations can often feel uncomfortable. Remembering that employers are looking to assess your teamwork, communication and problem solving skills will help you when thinking about how to answer the question.
It also means that you can highlight many positive and essential competencies employers look for in their employees.
Here are some points to consider to successfully answer the question, ‘What would you do if you had a personal issue with someone else on your team?’
When choosing your example, think carefully about the situations that you share.
Be careful to avoid speaking about those that could reflect poorly on you. Pick an example where you acknowledge there was conflict, but has a positive outcome for the team and for the organization.
By speaking about an example that has a positive outcome, you turn a negative situation with conflict into a positive one.
Choose an example that highlights what you learned from the experience. We encounter many situations in the workplace; some may be more difficult to deal with than others.
An academic and working career brings many situations where you can learn and develop your skills. Dealing with conflict situations is one of them.
Interviewers will want to know that you have thought about what you have learned from previous situations where personal issues with team members have arisen – that you can take what you have learned and can apply it to other situations in the future.
An example is a situation where you and a team member have been tasked with coming up with a solution to an issue that has arisen. You both have differing views on what should happen.
By acknowledging your different views and personal issues and working together to reach a compromise, the result positively affected the team and organization.
You have then taken this learning into new situations where you have had to work. You have resolved problems that have come up, and again the outcome has been beneficial for all concerned.
The STAR method is a framework that you can use when preparing your example:
- S (situation) – Describe the situation you were in
- T (task) – The task or challenge you had to deal with
- A (action) – The actions you took to deal with the issue and why you took these steps
- R (result) – How your actions then resulted in a positive learning outcome and what you have learned from this
When answering conflict questions, the method allows the interviewer to see how you deal with conflict. It also highlights whether you demonstrate skills such as communication, problem solving and interpersonal skills.
Following this framework in the interview itself can keep you on track with the information you share – meaning that you provide a complete example that is specific to the question asked rather than a generalized one.
Interviews can be nerve-wracking situations. As a candidate, you want to show the positive aspects of your character.
Answering what can be perceived as a negative question often makes candidates feel uneasy. Or, it can make some feel like the interviewer wants to catch them out. That isn't the case.
Practice what you want to say to put yourself in a positive frame of mind when answering questions on what you would do if you had a personal issue with someone else on your team.
Make sure you follow the STAR framework when preparing your example.
Think about follow-up questions that you think the interviewer may ask you once you've shared your example.
Doing this will ensure that you reinforce the positives of your example and what you have learned from conflict situations.
Here are examples of questions and answers to help you when asked, "What would you do if you had a personal issue with someone else in your team?"
I was working in a team of five on a sales project. Our manager tasked us with identifying two new clients and converting these into clients of the company. I was picked to lead the team.
One of my fellow team members wasn't happy about this. They had been in the team two years longer than I had and felt that because they had more experience in the team, they should have been chosen to lead.
They made their feelings known in our morning team meetings. They did not respond to any questions I asked of the team and rolled their eyes at my suggestions, often making unhelpful comments.
I realized that the personal issue that my team member had wasn't going to go away. To benefit our working relationship and the team, I spoke to the team member in private after one of our meetings.
I listened to their point of view and empathized with them, letting them know I understood where they were coming from. I then shared my perspective and highlighted that the task was a team task, and we all wanted to do well for the team.
They agreed, and we went on to gain three new paying clients, all of whom are still with us. Our team's sales revenue for the year has increased by 30%.
I learned from this that it is important to approach issues of conflict with sensitivity – to listen to the others’ perspective and discuss the bigger picture and broader impact on the team and organization to make the issue less personal.
I deal with conflict in the workplace calmly and professionally. I believe it is important to discuss the situation privately with the person in question rather than out in the open where other team members can hear.
I listen to their concerns, then share my perspective so we can reach a positive outcome.
I get on well with my manager, and we respect each other's points of view. There was one time when I believed that I was the right person to take on a secondment project role.
My manager didn't put me forward for the project role. I was upset by this. I felt that I had all of the skills required for the position. This role would have allowed me to develop my skills and gain new ones in digital marketing.
I arranged a meeting with my manager to discuss this and let them know beforehand what I wanted to talk about.
At the meeting, I discussed the skills I had in relation to the secondment project role as outlined in the role requirements. I went through why I felt the role would have been good for me.
I asked for my manager's opinion on this, as I was keen to understand their perspective. My manager shared that they were not aware that digital marketing was an area I wanted to gain skills in.
We agreed on a short-term development plan that would allow me to develop digital marketing skills in my current role. I could then use it to take forward specific projects within my current team.
A ‘How do you handle conflict?’ interview question is one that makes many candidates feel uneasy.
Understanding what competencies are being assessed and what the interviewer is looking for helps when answering these questions.
Prepare and practice examples using the STAR technique, ensuring that you don't provide a vague answer. Use the interview question to highlight the skills that you have.
Doing this means you turn your answer into a positive one that demonstrates you can work in a team and have strong interpersonal skills.