When asking this question, your interviewer wants to know if you can handle a sensitive situation and how you’ll go about it. The story about the chronically late employee who came on time once he took on a new responsibility (shared at the beginning of this article), is a great example of how to answer this question, as it showcases the manager’s innovation in people management.
In your preparation for the interview, think of at least two people you’ve worked with who struggled or disrupted a team’s work in some way and how you dealt with the difficulties—then choose which situation better exemplifies your management skills and style and makes sense in the context of your conversation. For example, I know a leader who might have talked about the time they inherited a team on which two employees’ division on a hot-button issue created an unmistakable feeling of tension at every meeting, and the leader had to quickly figure out how to repair the rift before it derailed the team’s work.
Ask yourself: Were the issues about skills gaps, personality differences, attitude problems, work ethic, inappropriate behavior, or other types of noncompliance? When you share your story, make sure to describe the employee’s struggles or behavior and the impact it was having in the workplace, followed by how you reflected on and dealt with the issue, including what the final outcome of your intervention was. You can name a difficult behavior, but don’t disparage the worker, by saying, “They were a real pain in the neck,” or anything else about them as a person.
Your example also doesn’t have to result in a fairytale ending where everything works out perfectly. Some employees’ performance or behavior will improve only marginally. And if an employee continued to have or cause problems in the workplace, termination could be a perfectly fine end to the story as long as you thoroughly explain why and what steps you took. A story ending with an employee being let go can show your ability to assess the right staff and/or follow through on ethical standards on behalf of the company