Saturday, January 26, 2008

What if a patron doesn't like a colleague?

What if a patron doesn't like a colleague and prefers to have you help him/her, every time, even when you are not on your shift?

You have two options to answer this question:
  1. This is a hypothetical question, so you can make a guess as to what you would do. You can ask about policies in effect in the library in regards to dealing with "difficult" patrons.
  2. You can treat this question as a BDI question. As a BDI question, you must use a true, past experience and explain what happened in that situation and highlight your role. It is best that the experience had a positive outcome, but if it does not, you can finish your answer, hypothetically, stating what you would do differently in the future based on what you learned from the experience.
Don't shy away from these questions since they are asking about how you would deal with sticky situations. The interviewers want to know: do you always go running for help? and do you know when to call for help? When it comes to ethics and conflict, you have to strike a balance between the two. You also have to show that you are fair-minded.

Some interview questions are multi-layered and they may have more than one step to solve. An interviewer could take this question into several different directions:
  • Collegiality and conflict: what if you don't like your colleague and find them to be abrasive and abrupt, but you know that you have to address the issue? This becomes a behavior descriptive question if the interviewer asks, have you experienced this situation in the past?
  • What if your colleague is a person of color or a person who wears a prominent religious symbol and the patron always waits until you--who appears to be of the same ethic group/religious affiliation as the patron--are free? You can also change this if the interviewee is a person of color and say that this patron always waits until you are free, ignoring your colleagues that do not appear to be of the same ethnic group of the patron. This becomes an ethical question: do you say something to your colleagues, to the patron or to your supervisor?
However, I don't think that interviewers should ask this question invoking race or religion if they have not created a policy for their own library staff when dealing with these issues. I have a peeve about these questions, especially in regards to personal conflicts: why do organizations persist in asking these questions when they have no clear internal policy? Some supervisors think they are going to get a silver bullet answer when they haven't bothered to form one themselves.

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