Careers

How to answer the interview question, 'Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss'

Photo Illustration/Bryce Churchill
Photo Illustration/Bryce Churchill

Being able to articulate how you handle conflict in the workplace can make or break your shot at impressing an employer.

In fact, job search platform Glassdoor says one of the 50 Most Common Interview Questions asked is, "Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss."

"This question tests two things: your political savvy and your courage to speak up," career strategist Mary Grace Gardner from The Young Professionista tells Glassdoor. "If your boss is making a major mistake or you have an even better idea, they will definitely want you to speak up — but it would be important to do it the right way."

Career coach Angela Copeland says the best way to respond is to "use an example that illustrates a disagreement where you were able to persuade your boss to try things your way — and ultimately, it worked out well for everyone (including your boss)."

For example, maybe you worked at a company where you felt a remote work policy would help improve company culture. While your boss was initially against the idea, you persuaded them to do a trial period where you proved how having the option to work remotely could increase the productivity for you and your colleagues.

"The goal is not to make your boss look bad," adds Copeland. "It's to show how you can work through conflict with another person effectively."

In fact, self-made millionaire and entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis says having the courage to speak up and defend your idesa can have a positive impact on your career.

On CNBC's "The Partner," Lemonis says the No. 1 thing he looks for in the entrepreneurs competing for his guidance is conviction.

"What I'm ultimately looking for is who is actually going to stand up and tell me it's a bad idea and have a conviction about it," he says.

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