Interview Q&A: Tell Me About A Time When You Disagreed With Your Boss

Gabriela Hernandez
by Gabriela Hernandez   CPRW, Career Advice Expert 
Last Updated: May 22, 2023 

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In job interviews, few questions are as potentially challenging as “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.” This particular inquiry often catches candidates off guard. Still, its purpose is clear: employers want to gauge your ability to handle conflicts and demonstrate your communication skills.

This guide will discuss:

  • why employers ask this question
  • practical strategies to craft an effective response
  • examples of well-crafted responses
  • common yet avoidable mistakes when answering this question

Why employers ask this question

The interview question, “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss,” might seem daunting to answer, but interviewers don’t want to see you fail. They just want to analyze how you handle communicating your ideas professionally even if they go against what your superior thinks.

Understanding the underlying motivations behind why employers pose this question can help you tailor your response effectively. Here are a few reasons why employers commonly ask this question:

Conflict Management Skills

Disagreements in the workplace are inevitable, and employers want to gauge your ability to handle such situations professionally. By asking about a time when you disagreed with your boss, they aim to evaluate your conflict resolution skills, emotional intelligence, and ability to maintain a productive working relationship despite differences of opinion.

Communication and Assertiveness

Effective communication is vital in any work environment. Employers want to ascertain your capacity to express your viewpoints respectfully and constructively, even when they differ from your superiors. They want to understand how you navigate these conversations, advocate for your ideas, and find common ground while maintaining professionalism.

Problem-Solving Aptitude

Handling disagreements with your boss requires problem-solving skills and critical thinking. Employers use this question to assess your ability to approach conflicts as opportunities for growth and improvement. They want to know how you analyze the situation, identify alternative solutions, and collaborate with others to find mutually beneficial resolutions.

Cultural Fit

Cultural fit is a significant consideration for employers when evaluating candidates. By asking about disagreements with your boss, they gain insights into your adaptability and compatibility with the organization’s values and work culture. They seek to identify whether you possess the flexibility and maturity to handle differing opinions within their specific workplace dynamics.

By understanding the underlying motivations behind why employers ask this question, you can prepare a well-rounded response that addresses their concerns and highlights your strengths in conflict management, communication, problem-solving, and cultural fit. The following section will provide practical strategies to craft a compelling answer that leaves a positive impression on your interviewer.

How to answer this question

Crafting an effective response to the interview question, “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss,” requires thoughtful preparation. These tips will help you answer this interview question confidently:

  • Choose a Relevant Example

    Select a specific situation where you disagreed with your boss that highlights your ability to handle conflicts constructively. The example should be recent, relevant to the position you’re applying for, and demonstrate your skills and growth.

  • Follow the STAR Method

    Structure your response using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to craft a concise account of the disagreement. Start by describing the context and your role in the situation (Situation). Explain the task and the specific points of contention (Task). Outline your actions to address the conflict, emphasizing effective communication and problem-solving (Action). Finally, share the positive outcome or lessons learned from the experience (Result).

  • Highlight Your Communication Skills

    Emphasize your ability to communicate respectfully and assertively. Describe how you actively listened to your boss’s perspective, expressed your viewpoint thoughtfully, and sought common ground through open and honest dialogue. Showcase your diplomacy and professionalism throughout the interaction.

  • Focus on Problem-Solving

    Illustrate your problem-solving aptitude by discussing your steps to resolve the disagreement. Explain how you analyzed the situation objectively, considered alternative solutions, and collaborated with your boss to find a mutually agreeable outcome. Highlight any innovative or creative ideas you brought to the table.

  • Emphasize Professionalism and Learning

    Demonstrate your professionalism by emphasizing that you approached the disagreement with a focus on maintaining a positive working relationship. Discuss how you handled the situation maturely and learned from the experience. Emphasize any personal growth or improved strategies you gained as a result.

  • Connect to the Job Requirements

    Whenever possible, align your response with the skills and qualities the employer seeks. Link your experience of handling disagreements with your boss to demonstrate how it has prepared you for the challenges of the position you’re interviewing for. This will help you establish your flexibility and how you contribute effectively to the team.

Sample answers

Marketing Manager

Situation: In my previous role as a Marketing Manager, we had to develop a marketing campaign for a luxury product launch. My boss had a plan already in mind, but my ideas were very goin in a totally different direction.

Task: Despite the disagreement, our job was to create an impactful campaign within a tight deadline while aligning with the company’s goals and brand identity.

Action: To address the disagreement, I scheduled a meeting with my boss to discuss my alternative approach. I presented a well-researched proposal that included data-backed insights, competitive analysis, and a persuasive argument for the new strategy. I actively listened to my boss’s concerns and responded with empathy and respect.

Result: After an in-depth discussion, my boss appreciated my thorough research and analysis. We reached a compromise where we integrated elements of both approaches into the final campaign. The campaign succeeded, exceeding our targets and generating positive customer feedback. This experience taught me how important open communication is and how collaboration is crucial to finding common ground to achieve the right solutions.

Software Engineer

Situation: As a Software Engineer, I disagreed with my boss during a project where we were deciding on the technology stack to use for a new software application. My boss was convinced about using a specific framework, but I brought up a new approach that would be easier to scale and would likely increase performance.

Task: We had to decide on a technology stack that met the project’s requirements, aligned with our company’s vision, and as always deliver the best product.

Action: I scheduled a meeting to voice my concerns and present my alterntive. I backed up my argument with research and showed case studies and benchmarks that validated my approach. I ensured that my communication remained professional and focused on the technical merits of each option.

Result: Through open and respectful dialogue, my boss recognized the value of the alternative framework and agreed to explore it further. We conducted additional tests and evaluations and ultimately decided to adopt the alternative framework for the project. We successfully developed the application and exceeded performance expectations. This experience highlighted the importance of presenting well-reasoned arguments based on data and collaborating with my superiors to make informed decisions.

Sales Representative

Situation: While working as a Sales Representative, I found myself in a disagreement with my boss regarding the pricing strategy for a key client. My boss wanted to offer a significant discount to secure the deal. Still, I believed it would devalue our product and undermine our profitability.

Task: Our task was to negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement with the client while maintaining the value proposition of our product.

Action: To address the disagreement, I scheduled a meeting with my boss to discuss my concerns. I prepared a comprehensive analysis of the client’s buying behavior, market competition and pricing structure. I proposed an alternative approach that offered additional value-added services instead of a substantial discount. I presented a compelling argument, highlighting the long-term benefits of maintaining our product’s value and profitability.

Result: I convinced my boss to consider the alternative strategy through effective communication and persuasive reasoning. We revised our proposal to include value-added services, providing a unique selling point for our product. The client appreciated the added value and agreed to the revised terms. We secured the deal, strengthen our relationship with the client and profited even more with my proposed strategy. This experience showed me the importance of thinking strategically, communicating effectively and professionally and always aiming to find a win-win solution.

Project Manager

Situation: As a Project Manager, I encountered a disagreement with my boss regarding allocating resources for a critical project. My boss wanted to assign additional team members to expedite the timeline. Still, it would compromise the quality of deliverables and lead to burnout among team members.

Task: Our task was to ensure successful project completion within the given timeframe while maintaining quality standards and the team’s well-being.

Action: To address the disagreement, I scheduled a meeting with my boss to express my concerns. I presented a detailed analysis of the project requirements, team capacity, and potential risks associated with the proposed resource allocation. I submitted an alternative plan that involved optimizing the existing team’s workload and leveraging external resources for specific tasks. I emphasized the importance of work-life balance and preserving team morale.

Result: I convinced my boss to reconsider the resource allocation strategy through effective communication and evidence-based reasoning. We reevaluated the project timeline and made adjustments that allowed the team to maintain a sustainable pace while delivering high-quality results. We completed the project, meeting all objectives without compromising the team’s well-being. This experience underscored the significance of advocating for the team’s best interests and making informed decisions to achieve project success.

Customer Service Representative

Situation: As a Customer Service Representative, I encountered a disagreement with my boss concerning a customer complaint resolution. My boss wanted to offer a full refund to appease the customer. Still, a partial refund coupled with additional support and personalized service would better address the customer’s needs and retain their loyalty.

Task: Our task was to resolve the customer complaint effectively, ensuring customer satisfaction and maintaining the company’s reputation.

Action: To address the disagreement, I scheduled a meeting with my boss to discuss my proposed approach. I provided examples of similar customer cases where personalized support and partial refunds had resulted in successful resolutions and strengthened customer relationships. I emphasized the long-term value of customer retention and the potential negative impact of widespread full refunds on the company’s bottom line.

Result: By presenting a well-reasoned argument and demonstrating the potential benefits of my proposed approach, I persuaded my boss to consider the alternative resolution strategy. We implemented a solution that involved personalized support, additional product assistance, and a partial refund. The customer appreciated the customized approach and expressed satisfaction with the resolution. This experience highlighted the importance of understanding customer needs, finding creative solutions, and balancing customer satisfaction with business considerations.

By adapting these examples to your own experiences and industry-specific scenarios, you can craft compelling answers demonstrating your ability to handle disagreements professionally and contribute effectively to the job you are applying for.

Mistakes to avoid

While providing a well-crafted response to the interview question, “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss,” is essential, it is equally crucial to avoid certain pitfalls that could hinder your chances of making a positive impression. These are frequent mistakes you should avoid when answering this question:

Badmouthing or Blaming: Avoid speaking negatively about your boss or placing blame solely on them. Instead, focus on the constructive aspects of the disagreement and how you handled it professionally. Demonstrate your ability to maintain a respectful and collaborative approach, even in challenging situations.

Lack of Preparation: Failing to prepare a specific example or relying on vague and general statements can weaken your response. Review past experiences and select a relevant scenario showcasing your skills and growth. Structure your answer using the STAR method for an account that’s concise and easy to follow.

Neglecting Teamwork: Remember that employers value teamwork and collaboration. Avoid portraying yourself as someone who always opposes or challenges authority without considering the bigger picture. Emphasize how you effectively communicated and collaborated with your boss to find a mutually beneficial resolution.

Oversharing or Confidentiality Breach: While providing sufficient context and details is crucial, be mindful of sharing confidential or sensitive information that could breach trust or violate professional boundaries. Maintain a balance between giving enough information to demonstrate your abilities and respecting confidentiality.

Lack of Reflection or Growth: This question showcases your ability to learn and grow from the disagreement. Refrain from presenting yourself as someone who never makes mistakes or has not gained any insights from challenging situations. Reflect on these somewhat uncomfortable experiences and honestly discuss how it helped you develop new skills, improve your approach, or broaden your perspective.

Rambling or Lack of Focus: Keep your response concise and focused. Avoid rambling or going off on tangents that detract from the main point of the disagreement and its resolution. Practice your answer to ensure you communicate your thoughts clearly and effectively within a reasonable timeframe.

Failing to Connect to the Job: Remember to align your answer with the job requirements you are applying for. Tailor your response to highlight skills and qualities relevant to the position. Connect the experience of disagreeing with your boss to demonstrate how it has prepared you for the challenges and responsibilities of the role.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can deliver a polished and effective response demonstrating your professionalism, problem-solving skills, and ability to navigate conflicts constructively.

In conclusion, successfully answering the interview question about a disagreement with your boss requires thoughtful preparation, effective communication, and a focus on problem-solving. By understanding why employers ask this question, you can tailor your response to address their concerns and highlight your strengths. Remember to choose relevant examples, emphasize professionalism and growth, and connect your experiences to the job requirements.

As you continue exploring opportunities, remember to update your resume for each application, ensuring it effectively showcases your skills and experiences. Create a compelling with our Resume Builder, which provides user-friendly templates and helpful tips to help you craft an impressive document. Good luck with your interviews and job search journey!


About the Author

CPRW, Career Advice Expert

Gabriela Hernandez CPRW, Career Advice Expert

Gabriela Hernandez is one of LiveCareer's resident writers. She graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a degree in Journalism. Throughout her career, she has tackled copywriting, blog articles, journalistic writing, academic writing, resume writing, and even prose and verse.


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