Interviewer:'So William, can you tell us about a situation in the past when you had a problem with someone at work? And how did you resolve the situation?'
Candidate:'I remember one situation where we were undertaking a project to change the flow of customer service enquiries. I was the project manager and we were several months into the project. Everything had gone well with the project, we had obtained agreement from all the relevant parties in the company to make the changes. And then suddenly, in a project update meeting, the manager of the customer service department refused to implement any of the changes that he had previously agreed to.I consider myself a very thorough person. I always think ahead about possible issues, but this came out of the blue and I wasn't expecting it at such a late stage in the project. As you can appreciate, it was a big problem. Without his agreement, the project was effectively dead. Throughout the meeting he wouldn't change his mind, and I was very direct with him. To be honest, I did not handle the situation very well. So, the meeting ended in a confrontation between us.
After the meeting finished, I considered different ways that we could save the project. I did think about speaking directly with his manager, but going above him would have caused a bad working relationship between us. So I decided that I would only do that as a last resort. At that point, I regretted how I had acted in the meeting and I started to think more clearly and objectively about the situation. I put myself in his position and thought about why he suddenly objected to the changes. That was extremely useful, because I started to appreciate his objections more than before. I realised that one of the main issues was that he thought his authority was being undermined.
I arranged to meet him the following day. When we met, my approach was very different. I tried to get him more involved in the process. I was more patient, I listened more to what he had to say without interrupting if I didn't agree. I asked him for suggestions on how we could improve the project. I made him aware that if neither us agreed it would be a no-win situation for the company. To be honest I was surprised how well it worked. By the end of the meeting, he agreed to continue the project if a few minor changes were made.
From this I learnt one of my most important lessons in business. It's not sometimes what you say, but how you say it. And also, how important listening is when you work with people or you manage people. Ever since then, I always put this into practice when I deal with people.'