You’ll often work with people of all different personalities, and in some cases those personalities will disagree. If this happens on a project team it can make things really awkward for everyone. What role do you play in a group? Do you sit quietly, stay out of it and let them sort out their own problems or do you intervene and help the team with conflict resolution?
Your potential employer wants to know how you view these situations and what conflict resolution strategies you use to diffuse them. This is why they ask:
Behavioral Interview Question: Tell me about a time you worked on a team that did not get along. What happened, what role did you take, and what was the result?
This isn’t the type of question where you need to go into a lot of details about the conflict. That makes the answer quite negative. In most cases, your role will probably be that of a “mediator,”. It is a fairly gentle and positive term that shows you have conflict resolution skills that you can you. It also shows you do not stand by and do nothing but also, that you are also not overly aggressive and overbearing.
In some cases, especially if you are the project leader, you can say something more daring. Just make sure it sounds very positive about the workplace. You also never want to be the person that didn’t get along with others. Make sure you are the one proposing the conflict resolution and not actually the one in the conflict. Here are two examples of good answers for when you are the project leader and when you are not:
You were the project leader
“Yes, there was a time when two of my coworkers appeared to harbor negative feelings about each other. I was the project lead, and I noticed right away that their fighting was going to affect our ability to reach the deadline. I would actually say I took an active intervention role in the conflict resolution . I took both of them aside individually, I told them their personal conflicts needed to stop and should play no role in getting the project completed. I said if they have any problems they should come to me for assistance, but finish their work first. I think they needed to hear that as both responded very well, the conflict stopped, and we reached our deadline without incident.”
You were not the project leader
“Yes, I remember when working on PROJECT X, two of my coworkers seemed to have a hard time working together for what at the time sounded like personal conflicts. As the project moved forward and those conflicts became more pronounced, I took on the role of mediator during project status meetings. I often brought the conversation back to the facts and the agenda items rather than letting it deteriorate to a personal level. This helped prevent their conflicts from affecting the quality of work.”
Both of these answers are clear, concise, and show that you were an effective leader whether or not you were the project leader at the time. They show that you have conflict resolution skills and are quite comfortable applying them to real life situations.