Management Interview Question: Tell Me About a Time You Disagreed with a Subordinate

JANUARY 6, 2012 | BY MICAH
Managing workplace disagreements.© Stuart-Miles / Dollar Photo Club

Once you’ve reached management level, there is a good chance you have several years of work experience that the interviewer can ask you about. That is why management interviews often have a lot of behavioral questions.

As a manager, your leadership skills are going to be tested often, so you can expect some behavioral interview questions about your interaction with subordinates and how you deal with conflict in the workplace. Answer any of these type of questions carefully.

How to Answer

No matter how you traditionally manage, you need to make sure you sound like a fair and loving boss. You should not talk like you are wiser or more experienced. Instead, share a story about calm and measured disagreement, what you learned, and how the company benefitted. Or, if you caught an employee doing something illegal or slacking off, you can talk about that disagreement as well.

Try to call your subordinates something nicer too like “team members” or “staff.”

Bad Answer

“One time my subordinate came to me and refused to do a project. She and I had an argument in the middle of the workplace. Needless to say I fired her.”

This doesn’t really make you look like an outstanding boss. No story that ends with you getting your way just because you’re the boss is a good story.

Good Answer

“Often I would walk into my team member’s office and find that he was spending time on social networking sites instead of working. We had a discussion about the time he spent on his projects. It started as a disagreement, but I realized that he wasn’t wasting time for the purposes of wasting time. He was wasting time because he would get done extremely quickly and efficiently, and he would run out of projects and get bored. Rather than reprimand him, I started finding him more work to do, and he became one of our most productive employees.”

This is a disagreement, but only in the beginning. By the end of the story you have shared a tale that makes you look like someone that recognizes brilliance and communicates well with subordinates. These kinds of stories are much better for your employment chances.

See also: The easiest ways to show you manage conflict positively. 

Take Away Interview Tips

  • Look for stories that make you look intelligent and fair.
  • Stay away from sounding too dominant, but try not to sound weak either.
  • Always remain positive.

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