in Careers Advice, Interviews

Interview Question and Answer – Describe a situation where you had a disagreement or an argument with a superior – how did you handle it?

Advice

A
very difficult question indeed. Firstly because if you have ever had a
disagreement with your superior it clearly indicates that you are
someone who maybe a little awkward at work. Not only that but you are
introducing a negative into the interview process which is not
recommended. However if you don’t answer the question it could be
construed that you can’t think of anything quickly enough as everyone
surely must have had a disagreement at some stage or another with their
superior.

However
thinking back through my own career I have to confess that during my
time as a professional I am not sure I ever had a disagreement with any
superior. I may at times have considered the actions I had taken to be
perfectly valid and the superior may have considered that they were not
but not to the extent that I would disagree with them as I would always
accept their decision as the more senior member of staff. I suspect that
this question is more suitable for someone who is a member of senior
management themselves and responsible for making a considerable number
of decisions on a daily basis that at times may conflict with another
member of senior management who would be more senior to you. Junior
members of staff are probably better keeping away from this question and
using the sample answer below or something similar.

Examples of Answers

“During
my career to date I have not experienced a disagreement with my
superiors. Very often if I have completed a task and this is reviewed by
one of my managers, they will give me advice and encouragement on
particular points that they may feel are not strictly correct or the
best course of action. As my superiors with considerably more experience
than I have, I accept their guidance and advice gratefully as I feel
that this is the best way to learn.”

Or:

“As
a member of the management team we very often have meetings where
decisions are made and senior managers do not necessarily agree with
some of the actions that the middle-management team including myself
have made. Our management structure is set up so that the
middle-managers are able to voice their opinions on any decisions made
or reversed by senior management. There have been numerous incidents
when a constructive and healthy debate has occurred during meetings
concerning decisions I have made that a senior manager may not have
agreed with and very often both parties will present their own points of
view on the issue and the other managers will provide their feedback on
this discussion. It is always done in a very amicable way as usually
the decisions have two or three courses of action and they are just as
valid as each other.”

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 17 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at www.legalcareercoaching.co.uk. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk