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