Describe a situation where you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. How did you handle it?
Other interview questions that are similar
- How did you work with a challenging colleague effectively?
- How did you handle a team member with conflicting views?
- Describe managing productivity with a difficult communicator.
- How did you collaborate with a team member resistant to change?
- Share adapting to a colleague with a different work ethic.
- Describe your approach with a notoriously difficult co-worker.
- How did you ensure success with a partner of different attitude?
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
There are probably an infinite number of questions that the interviewer could ask you on the day. Some questions are incredibly common appearing in almost every interview you will have, while other questions you might hear once and never again regardless of how many jobs you apply for.
Fundamentally though all interview questions are really trying to find out one of 3 things:
1 – Can you do the job? (Do you have the skills/experience needed?)
2 – Will you do the job? (Do you have the drive/motivation to get the job done?)
3 – Will you fit in? (Does your personality match the workplace culture? Are you likeable?)
That’s it. Those are the 3 things that the interviewer is trying to ascertain. Every question that is asked of you will fundamentally be trying to resolve one (or more) of these 3 things.
When you’re asked to describe a situation where you had to work with someone difficult, the interviewer is often assessing more than just your interpersonal skills. This question touches on all three fundamental areas. Firstly, it explores if you can do the job by testing your ability to navigate challenging team dynamics while still delivering results. Secondly, it gauges your willingness to do the job, revealing your drive and resilience in overcoming workplace obstacles. Finally, it’s a measure of how well you’ll fit in. Your response can show adaptability and how you handle conflict, indicating if your personality and conflict resolution style align with the company’s culture. So, when answering, be concise and focus on demonstrating skills, motivation, and cultural fit.
How Best To Structure Your Answer To This Question
Unless the question you are asked is a straight ‘up or down / yes or no’ style question then you are going to need to learn to describe, expand and elaborate on your answers. The best way of doing this is to follow the B-STAR technique for answering interview questions.
Answers using this method follow the below structure:
B – Belief – What are your thoughts and feelings with regard to the subject matter? In the context of the interview question, this will reveal your attitude towards working with challenging individuals and how it shapes your actions.
S – Situation – What was going on? Briefly explain the scenario that was taking place. Relating this to the interview question helps the interviewer understand the context in which you demonstrated your ability to collaborate with difficult people.
T – Task – What was your role in the action? Most of the time it is best that you are taking an active rather than passive role in the encounter. This will show the interviewer how you actively engage in resolving conflicts or navigating difficult relationships in the workplace.
A – Activity (or action) – What did you do? Detail the steps you took and why you took them. In answering the interview question, this part highlights your specific actions and strategies in dealing with the difficult person, showcasing your problem-solving and interpersonal skills.
R – Result – How did everything end up? Try to use figures if possible (e.g. we cut costs by $3m, customer satisfaction scores increased 25%, failures reduced to zero, ice cream parties increased ten-fold etc.). This demonstrates the tangible outcomes of your actions in the challenging situation, providing the interviewer with evidence of your effectiveness in similar scenarios.
Remember though that the B-STAR technique is descriptive not prescriptive. You do not need to follow this flow strictly, go with what is best for your answers and that will allow you to put your point across and show your experience the best.
What You Should NOT Do When Answering Questions
Do not avoid the question.
Do not downplay the situation.
Do not overhype the situation.
Do not say you have no experience with the subject matter.
Do not reject the premise of the question.
Do not blame others or speak negatively about the difficult person.
Do not leave out how you resolved or managed the situation.
Describe a situation where you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. How did you handle it? – Example answers
Example Answer 1
“I believe that every individual in a team brings unique strengths and challenges. In my previous role as a project manager, I encountered a situation with a team member, Alex, who was highly skilled but often resistant to feedback and collaboration. It’s my belief that understanding and respecting individual differences is crucial in fostering a productive team environment, so I focused on tailoring my approach to effectively engage with Alex.
Our team was working on a critical project with a tight deadline. Alex, a key team member, had a tendency to work in isolation, which created friction and delays. I recognized that this situation required careful handling to maintain team harmony and project momentum.
As the project lead, my role was to ensure smooth collaboration and timely delivery of the project. I decided to address the issue directly but empathetically. I arranged a one-on-one meeting with Alex to understand his perspective and to express the team’s need for more collaborative efforts.
In this meeting, I acknowledged Alex’s expertise and explained how his involvement in team discussions could enhance the project’s success. I suggested a more structured approach to our meetings to make them more efficient and appealing to him. Additionally, I offered my support in areas where he felt challenged.
The result was a significant improvement in Alex’s collaboration with the team. He began to actively participate in meetings, offering valuable insights that significantly enhanced our project’s quality. Our team was able to complete the project two weeks ahead of schedule, which was a first for our department. This experience taught me the importance of tailored communication and empathy in leadership.”
Example Answer 2
More Sample Answers…
The examples provided above can serve as a foundation for creating your unique answers. For additional inspiration, our new guide includes five sample responses to this question and over 250 answers to all of the most common interview queries.