Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Discomfort level

Tell me about a time when you worked with a colleague that you were not comfortable with.

This is a variation on  tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a co-worker. This question can be useful to an interviewer in a diverse workplace since "discomforts" may end up revealing a candidate's biases and prejudices.


Dealing with conflict amongst co-workers can happen in any workplace, and since this is a BDI question, you need to think about one of your co-workers who was oil to your water, but not matches to your gasoline. Explain, without naming names, how this colleague made you uncomfortable, and the steps you took, beyond suffering silence, to deal constructively with the issue. Make sure the fault was on their side, so a colleague who always arrived late to relieve you from your shift so you could get to class, is a better example, than how you always arrived late to work so you could avoid shift overlaps with this person.

What if you have never had a conflict with a co-worker? Well, you have to tell the truth, I have never had conflict with a co-worker. But I suspect that this is not true, and it has more to do with our perception of the word conflict, which tends to make people thinking of putting up their dukes. Conflict does not have to do with fisticuffs, it has to do with a coworker frustrating us professionally, and how we deal with those frustrations as a professional.

Avoiding this question may also have to do with your truthfulness: you did have a conflict with a co-worker in the past, but you now feel like you acted like a dork and have repented your bad behavior. If this is the case, and you don't look like an immature jerk or a prejudiced idiot, lay out the particulars of the conflict, the outcome of the situation, and how the situation changed your professional--or personal--behavior for the better.

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