Odd interview question

I got a great job offer yesterday and accepted (go me) so this is just a curiosity now, but I got the same odd question in several interviews and I’m wondering what the crowd thinks the right answer might be.

Asked almost word for word by several completely unrelated organizations: tell us about a time that a manager made a decision you didn’t agree with and how you handled it.

I guess it could go two ways, either they’re looking for a drone who will follow orders without question or their looking for an idea person who will suggest alternatives.

I think they’re looking for somebody who will cede to authority and assist the manager in the best implementation of that manager’s strategy, despite any apprehension on the part of the job candidate. To me it looks like they were asking if you were a team player, more or less.

Congratulations on the job, btw.

i think those are just to see how you respond, intelligent and composed or flustered and insecure

I’ve always figured they want to see if you jump on the opportunity to badmouth a former boss. Most people are smart enough not to do that unsolicited, but this question might be just enough to get a person to show their true colors.

I typically talk about a situation where my supervisor and myself had a philosophical difference over how to conduct a training. I designed the training to fit his needs, but took my approach (which is very accepted in the industry) and invited him to come watch. The training was a rousing success, and he became more open to that set of techniques. As a young professional, I hope this illustrates my leadership and growing professional voice.

I don’t see that as an odd question, but as a relevant one. This situation comes up now and then. How did you handle it, or at least, how would you handle it?

(I storm out of the room and pout for a week, but that’s just me. YMMV)

In one interview I talked about a policy that was a challenge to enforce because it was budget related and not particularly customer friendly, and included examples of how I was able to help find solutions for the customers working within that policy. In another I talked about a deadline that was very difficult to meet and how I and my team stretched ourselves to meet it anyway.

There’s no right answer or anything in particular they are looking for. They’ll evaluate your response based on it’s form and content. Obviously there are wrong answers. Don’t say his decision was ‘bogus’. Don’t say what you did about it was to key his car. Give lucid reasons for why you disagreed, and explain why you did what you did as a result.

That’s a question with a few clear correct answers and a few clearly wrong answers.

I think for any position beyond “grunt” level just saying “I do whatever my manager says” isn’t going to show the creativity and initiative most employers want. But bad mouthing the manager or in any way conveying you thought you were smarter than your manager, more capable, or basically said anything negative about them that would be bad too.

I think the best answer is to say that you made your disagreement known in a corrective way so that your manager had your input, but in the end respected his final decision once he had made it.

I think the “correct” answer to this question is something along the lines of: “I argued with him until he made a decision and made it clear the decision was final. Once the decision was made I did my best to implement it, like it or not.” I happen to agree with this way of thinking, but of course not everybody will.

They are making sure you’re a “yesman”. No more, no less.

Don’t count on that. They may be weeding out the butt kissers.

Wouldn’t they be weeding those people “in”? :dubious:

I disagree. Good businesspeople don’t want to be surrounded by yes men. They want to be surrounded by creative people who will challenge their managers to come up with better ideas, yet still work as a team player.

Disagreeing with a manager is just fine. If you have a better solution, present it, try and convince them of it, and if they decide to stick with their plan, then you do your best to implement it. In my business (engineering), if you just say ‘yes’ to everything, you will quickly end up overloaded with work and missing deadlines.

Huh? Do you think everyone wants suck ups working for them?

No, but butkissers have a HIGH rate of employment. “Freethinkers”, not so much.

I disagree in the cases where a question like that is asked at the interview. People who want to hire butt kissers make it very clear up front. Someone who asks a question like that is often looking for someone who can ‘think outside the box’. Usually because they’re hopelessly trapped in that box themself.

Never been in the Box
Never lacked for work either

Yesmen give you the answers you want to hear. A good yesman would never answer the interview question with something like “I just always do what the boss wants.”, even if he really does*. He’d give the answer the interviewer wants to hear*.
ETA: * Well, if the interviewer wants the answer “I just always do what the boss wants.”, then maybe…

When I was at Intel one of the mandatory classes that everyone took was in Managing Conflicts. They had a principle of “Disagree and Commit” which meant that if the decision went against you at a meeting (or from your boss) it was okay to declare your opposition but not okay to try to undermine the decision. I think that would be a pretty good answer.
If someone I was interviewing used it as an opportunity to badmouth a boss he would not get an offer.

To me, the more telling point is they want to see how you WILL react when your manager does something you disagree with. Not if. When.

I disagree with a lot of the answers. Questions like this are meant to be ink blots. They don’t expect anybody to say they refused to abide by their managers decision. They want to see how you react to the question. It’s also a lot like lie detector tests, i.e. useless. If they are leaning toward hiring you they may use your answer to justify the decision. If they don’t like you they’ll use the exact same answer to decline.