Disagreement, criticism, conflict–such situations belong to every workplace, and we cannot avoid them. Your boss is neither a prophet nor a God. They can make a mistake, they can be wrong. Just like everyone else, including yourself.
Question about disagreements with your boss makes sense in every job interview. Hiring managers try to understand how you react to such situations. Will you share your opinion with the boss? Or will you blindly follow their instructions, because it’s their responsibility to make decisions?
Let’s have a look at 7 good sample answers to this question. When you finish reading the answers, do not forget to check also the notes below them. They will help you to construct your genuine answer to this tricky interview question. And it should work well also for the simplified version of this question, the “Tell me about the time you disagreed with someone”.
7 sample answers to “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss” interview question
- In my last job in a cafeteria, I disagreed with the new policy the boss suggested. They wanted each staff member to take care of one task only. For example, I was supposed to take orders, but someone else should bring the drinks, and another person should take payments from customers. I said them that it is better to have variety, that the job would be repetitive for each one of us if we responded for one task only. That would result in a drop of motivation, and worse level of customer service. At least that was my opinion. The boss did not listen, they wanted to try the new strategy, as they considered it more effective. I eventually followed their orders, but I considered it my duty to share my feedback with them. Because at times the perspective of the boss can be very different to the perspective of an employee.
- This is my first job application, and I do not have any experience with disagreements with bosses. But I understand that conflicts belong to every workplace, and that I may disagree with some decisions of my superiors. I think that we should tell them our opinion, explain our reasoning, but at the end they should decide, because it’s their responsibly. Anyway, such conflicts are natural, and they should not have a negative impact on our relationship–at least that’s my opinion.
- I disagreed with my boss when they suggested to cut my salary due to the covid pandemic by 50%, because we weren’t open for customers, and the revenue of the company dropped significantly. I understood that the company had to survive, and they would have to make some cuts. But 50% was just too much. I had bills to pay, and I would not survive with such a salary. I suggested 25% cut, which was basically the maximum I could afford to lose, considering it a fair solution for both parties. But they did not agree, and eventually I had to leave the company. Here I am, applying for a job with you… *** Special Tip: Interview questions about disagreement with your boss is not the only tricky question you may face in your interview. Check our Interview Success Package for up to 10 premium answers to dozens of tricky interview questions. Learn something your competitors won’t know and outclass them in your next job interview… ***
- I had a lot of conflicts with my former boss. We had a totally different philosophy when it came to acquiring new customers, and closing big deals. I considered some of their sales techniques unethical, and I shared my feedback with them. But they cared only about making as much money as possible, and dismissed any suggestions I made. Honestly, I could not work for them anymore. It’s fine for me to disagree about minor things, but telling lies to customers is really not my cup of coffee. I tried to change things, I explained everything, without emotions, trying to understand their perspective. But it didn’t work out, and I eventually decided to leave the business.
- I have never worked for anyone before, but I can relate to a situation from a college. In one of my courses from Economics I disagreed with an interpretation of certain sentences of Keynes. I just thought that the teacher misunderstood them, and I was brave enough to raise my hand and share my opinion. At the end of the day Keynes borders Economics and Philosophy, and their teachings allow for various interpretations. To my surprise, the teacher praised me for my comment, and encouraged me to question things, and to give feedback also to other teachers. In my opinion, we should do the same in our employment–questioning things, sharing feedback with our colleagues, trying to make things better for everyone. That’s the philosophy of life I follow, and I definitely won’t hesitate to share my feedback with the boss.
- I disagreed with the decision of the Logistics Manager, about the reorganization of the entire warehouse. Knowing the daily patterns of incoming and outgoing stock better, first hand, I thought the new system would result in longer expedition time, and more work for stock clerks. I shared my opinion, but they still decided to proceed with the changes. Respecting their authority and experience, I obeyed their orders. And they were eventually right, and I was wrong. The new system proved more effective and we managed to shorten the expedition time. If the same situation repeated, however, I would act in the same way. I would share my feedback, tell them what I thought, and let them decide.
- Speaking honestly, I have never experienced such a disagreement. We were on the same page with my boss, both of us trying the best for the company, having the same philosophy of running a retail store. We had great relationship also outside of work, and any disagreements were minor and unimportant. However, if I disagreed with anything, I would definitely tell them. Because it’s important to talk about things, and feedback should flow freely in all directions in a successful company.
You should always share your feedback
The worst interview answer is saying that you disagreed, but kept quiet. Unless you apply for a job in North Korea, or in the army (in such places total obedience is required), you should always share your concerns and feedback with your boss.
Of course, it’s not only about what we say, but also how we say it. Ensure the interviewers that you will share your feedback in a constructive way. You will talk in opinions–because after all you can be wrong in your observations.
Basically you will aim for friendly and constructive critique, instead of pointless emotional conflicts that can quickly escalate. Constructive feedback means that instead of saying simply “you are very wrong”, or “I disagree”, you will say “in my opinion…”, and will also share your idea of how things should be done.
You should respect the line of hierarchy, or leave
Sharing your feedback is one thing, refusing to obey another. Talk about a situation in which you shared your feedback with the boss, but eventually followed their orders–regardless of whether you agreed with them or not.
Of course there are situations when we should not obey the boss. Sample answer no. 4 is a great example. If your boss asked you to do something unethical, or something that woud put your health or someone else’s health under risk, you simply disagreed and refused to obey.
Maybe you had to leave the company because of it, maybe you lost a lucrative job, but you adhered to your ethical principles and eventually did the right thing.
What to answer when you have no previous working experience
Logically you cannot have an experience of disagreeing with the boss if you never had a boss :). In such a case, you can either refer to a disagreement from school (see sample answer no. 5), or explain what you would do if there was such a disagreement (see sample answer no.2).
At the end of the day, your attitude matters for the interviewers, and not the particular situation you narrate. Show them that you are ready to share constructive criticism with your boss, but won’t start any destructive conflicts with them. You will tell them your opinion, you will explain your reasoning, and let them decide. Because it’s their responsibility…
Ready to answer this one? I hope so! But it’s not the only tricky question you will face while trying to secure the coveted job contract. Have a look at our Interview Success Package, and get ready for every question the hiring managers may throw at you. Thank you, and good luck in your interview!
May also interest you:
- Describe a time you had a disagreement with someone.
- Tell us about a time when you had to work with someone it was difficult to get along with.
- Tell us about a time when you work was criticized.