I recently spoke to a candidate who had an issue she described as being ‘like a pebble grating beneath a door’, writes Liam Horan, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.
The candidate in question had tried to bring about change in the section she managed, and it didn’t go as favourably as she would have liked.
It was a new technology thing and some people resisted.
Being her first time dealing with conflict in the workplace, the experience was hard to forget.
When next she went for a job interview – in the same organisation – she found herself a) rehearsing the arguments from that incident and b) running down the worker with whom she had had the biggest conflict.
“I was responding to the usual ‘have you ever experienced conflict in the workplace’ question and I went too far,” she told me some time later, as she prepared for her next interview. “I tanked a perfectly good interview by dwelling on that one episode.”
We need to see our career lows in context. First off, everyone has them. Secondly, a manager trying to introduce new technology simply has to expect resistance: it’s the nature of the beast.
“I couldn’t help rehashing the whole thing in the interview, it was just so raw at the time,” she added.
If something is raw, you need to take precautions. Don’t use the interview as either a counselling session or an opportunity to prove to your employers that you were right all along and that so-and-so really was out of order.
These things happen. For managers, in particular, they are unavoidable. Put it in its proper place – “yes, I have experienced conflict, but I did my best to resolve it, and to see the other person’s point of view…” – and move on. Don’t carry any guilt, don’t try to pass off the blame and don’t see it as catastrophic: it happens to everyone.
The irony is that this candidate had actually resolved the issue. She had sorted things out. But the rawness of it led her down the wrong road and damaged what she felt was an otherwise good interview.