How to Answer “Tell Me About a Time When You Disagreed With Your Boss” — If You Want to Get the Job

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Prepping for an upcoming interview? Good for you! Now your only concern is impressing the interviewer enough to land the job. You might have studied up on some of the most common interview questions — but there's one typical question you may be asked that's particularly difficult to answer: "Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss."

Here's what you should know about this seemingly loaded question and how to formulate an answer. 

Why do interviewers ask about past disagreements at work?

Let’s get this out of the way: Interviewers aren’t asking about times you disagreed or had conflicts with your boss or coworkers as a way to trick you. They don’t want you to say you’ve never disagreed with any decision made at work. Employers know that disagreements are inevitable. 

Instead, the interviewer asks this kind of behavioral question to gauge how you’ll handle disagreements if they hire you. According to Muse writer Jenna Jonaitis, “By describing how you handled a conflict in the past, you give the interviewer insight into how you’d handle one in the future.”

Interviewers are looking for your emotional maturity and conflict resolution skills — i.e., they want to make sure that you handled the situation like an adult. They're likely imagining themselves in your former or current boss' shoes, and they want to be confident that if you ever disagree with them, you'll handle it well. Bonus points if you also came to them with an alternative plan or solution so it’s clear you weren't just disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing. 

How to answer “Tell me about a time you disagreed with your boss.”

Follow these steps to put your answer together:

1. Choose a reasonable, work-focused disagreement to share.

Select a past disagreement with your boss that centered around something professional — not any social or personal disagreements. And don’t forget to make yourself look good! Talk about a conflict “where you both compromised and came to a mutually beneficial resolution,” Chaya Milchtein, a career coach for women and LGBTQ people in the automotive industry, tells The Muse. “This allows you to speak with confidence about the situation, show off your conflict resolution skills, and prove that you are amenable to compromise.” 

2. Use the STAR method to tell your story.

Whenever you’re answering an interview question where you need to tell a story, you can ensure that your answer is both complete and concise by organizing it with the STAR method. According to Muse writer Kat Boogaard:

“The STAR method is an interview technique that gives you a straightforward format you can use to tell a story by laying out the Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

  • Situation: Set the scene and give the necessary details of your example.

  • Task: Describe what your responsibility was in that situation.

  • Action: Explain exactly what steps you took to address it.

  • Result: Share what outcomes your actions achieved.”

3. Describe the situation. 

Briefly explain what was going on that led to your disagreement. Give your interviewer all the information they need to understand your story, but steer clear of extra details and avoid disparaging your manager. Focus on the situation you found yourselves in, not how your boss is the biggest micromanager you’ve ever met or how they call you every time they need to convert a Word document into a PDF. 

For example, you might start your answer with: 

“Once, our marketing team was deciding how to allocate our budget and resources between social platforms. My manager wanted to put most of our focus on Facebook since it had historically been the most successful for us. But I felt that ignoring other platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, which was still fairly new at the time, would be a big mistake.” 

4. Talk about your task.

For this question, your task is going to be advocating for your side in the disagreement with your boss. You should also explain why you disagreed. 

So continuing the answer above, this could sound like: 

“I knew that the company as a whole wanted to expand our customer base toward younger users — and that the newest product we were launching took that into account. So I felt that I needed to advocate for allocating our social resources to the platforms where younger Millennials and Gen-Z are.” 

5. Explain what action you took.

Tell your interviewer what steps you took to resolve the disagreement. This might include how you approached your boss about it and how you explained your side to them as well as any alternate solutions you proposed. 

For instance:

“I did some research on the user demographics across different social platforms, as well as ad campaign costs. I knew that Twitter and Instagram would be easier sells, but at the time we didn’t even have a TikTok account. So I also gathered some examples of marketing campaigns from similar tech companies on TikTok to show my boss. I asked to meet with them and sent over my research in advance. My ideal scenario going it would’ve been to focus most of our energy on these platforms and just use Instagram assets on Facebook. But I went in with several different compromises.”

6. Recount the results.

Every good story needs an ending so don’t leave yours out. Did your boss agree with you completely or did you find a compromise? Did you come around to your boss’s point of view? And think about the longer term as well. What were the results of the strategy you went with? Did your relationship with your boss get stronger? Did you get better at speaking up sooner? If you can speak directly to how your actions benefited your team or company overall, be sure to include that info. 

For example:

“Once we got into the meeting, the conversation went great. While my manager was hesitant about pulling almost all resources from Facebook, they took my idea about using Instagram assets on Facebook and used it as a jumping-off point. We ended up coming up with an idea to save time by creating short videos that would work for Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook rather than focusing on Facebook alone. Though the bulk of the budget for promotion still went to Facebook, we were able to allocate a small percentage to the other platforms and used the time saved on content to get our TikTok started. We ended up growing our under-35 customer base by 20% and we were already established on TikTok when the platform really exploded a few months later.”

What to avoid when answering the question “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss."


  • Bad-mouth your current or former boss and/or colleagues: Even if you were in a toxic work environment, you don't want to burn bridges or come across as someone overly negative who will speak about people behind their backs. 

  • Get bogged down in irrelevant details. This could lead to more questions or confusion so it’s better to only share the relevant information. 

  • Show strong emotions. This may sound counterintuitive since interviewers are looking for your emotional maturity in this question, but you don’t want to cloud your response by making it clear you’re still a bit annoyed (or flat-out angry) over the situation. Keep your response professional. 

Example answers for “Tell me about a time you disagreed with your boss”.

Here are a few more answers to this question that take all our advice into account:

Example answer for retail.

“My last store went through a rebrand and wanted to show themselves as a place where you get personalized attention and recommendations that you couldn’t get elsewhere — say from Amazon or Walmart. The first step of this strategy that my store manager wanted to implement was making sure that every customer who came in had at least three interactions with an employee before checkout. The idea was that there would be more opportunities for customers to ask questions and for employees to make connections. But I felt like this didn’t take into account each customer’s actual needs. 

“I went to the store manager during my break and explained that in my experience, a lot of the customers either came in knowing what they wanted or wanting time to browse in peace. The group that usually wanted the most guidance were those shopping for other people. So I proposed that instead of just trying to hit a certain number of interactions, we try greeting each customer and asking if they were just looking around, looking for something specific, or shopping for others, and depending on their answer we could use different strategies. Unfortunately, she felt the idea was too complicated and we went forward with her plan.

“I began to notice that a lot of people were leaving the store after two or more interactions and that some regulars stopped showing up altogether. When the numbers came in at the end of the quarter, sales were down. I set up a meeting in advance and asked my usual shift manager to sit in as well. I proposed my strategy again, but this time, I drew on my recent interactions with customers and simplified the idea to just asking ‘Are you shopping for someone or something specific?’ and going from there. With my shift manager’s buy-in, the store manager was willing to try it, and after a few months our numbers were back to where they’d been — after that sales started increasing steadily and customer feedback started to give us much higher scores for employee helpfulness. Also, I learned that sometimes it makes sense to try out an idea you don’t necessarily agree with because you never know what it could teach you.

Example answer for a manager.

“In early 2021, I was managing a team of four data analysts when my boss announced that he wanted everyone in his division to return to the office the next month. This was an abrupt shift from the company’s work-from-home policies and most of my team wasn’t even eligible for vaccination yet. Plus, my team was happier working remotely and there was no part of their jobs that couldn’t be done over the computer. 

Of course, safety was my number one priority, but I knew that if I approached it from a business standpoint, my manager would be more likely to see my point over the long term — rather than just delaying the return-to-office until everyone could get vaccinated. I set up a meeting with him and came prepared with data from the past year that showed that my team was not only getting the same amount of work done that they did before the lockdowns started, but there were fewer mistakes when they worked from home rather than in the office environment. I brought anonymous feedback I’d gotten both from my team and other individual contributors across the division about how they’d likely look elsewhere if they were forced back into the office. I also pulled some data on job openings across the industry that showed the majority offered hybrid or fully remote options. Basically, I made it clear that we’d lose people if we went through with this return-to-office plan — even if we delayed it until after people could be fully vaccinated. Though my boss still firmly believed that better work would be done in the office, he saw how much productivity we’d lose from resignations alone. He ended up making the return to office optional. Though we still lost people overall during the Great Resignation, no one from my team left and seeing how I went to bat for them strengthened our working relationships even further.”


Regina Borsellino contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for answering the question “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss” in an interview? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!