How to Answer “Tell Me About a Time When You Had to Give Difficult Feedback to a Coworker” (With Sample Answers)

flat art illustration of a person talking to a group

Why do employers ask about giving difficult feedback?

Employers often ask about giving difficult feedback in job interviews because they want to know how well you can handle difficult situations and communicate effectively with coworkers. Giving difficult feedback is a crucial part of any job, and it's important for employers to know that you can handle this responsibility in a professional and constructive manner.

How to answer the question

When answering this question, it's important to focus on your communication skills and your ability to handle difficult situations. Here are some tips for answering this question:

  1. Describe the specific situation in which you had to give difficult feedback to a coworker. Be sure to include details about the feedback you had to give and the specific circumstances surrounding the situation.

  2. Explain how you approached the situation. Did you schedule a meeting with the coworker to discuss the issue? Did you speak with a supervisor or HR representative beforehand?

  3. Describe the outcome of the situation. Did your coworker understand and accept the feedback? Did the situation improve as a result of your intervention?

  4. Reflect on what you learned from the experience and how it has helped you in your career. Did you develop any new communication skills or strategies as a result of the situation?

How to prepare for the question

To prepare for this question, you should think about specific situations in which you have had to give difficult feedback to a coworker. It's important to choose a situation that demonstrates your ability to communicate effectively and handle difficult situations in a professional manner. Here are some things to consider when selecting a situation to discuss:

  • Was the feedback related to a specific project or task?
  • Did the feedback involve a disagreement or conflict with the coworker?
  • Did you have to give the feedback in a group setting or one-on-one?
  • Did you have to give the feedback to someone who was more experienced or senior to you?

Common Mistakes

Avoiding the question

One common mistake that interviewees make when answering this question is avoiding the question altogether. This could happen if the interviewee is nervous or unsure of how to answer the question. It's important to remember that the interviewer is looking for specific examples of how you handle difficult situations, so it's essential to provide a specific answer rather than avoiding the question or giving a vague response.

Focusing on the negative

Another mistake that interviewees may make when answering this question is focusing too much on the negative aspects of the situation. While it's okay to acknowledge that the situation was challenging, it's important to also focus on the positive outcomes and the steps you took to address the issue. This will demonstrate your ability to handle difficult situations in a constructive and positive manner.

Blaming the coworker

It's important to avoid placing blame on the coworker when discussing a situation in which you had to give difficult feedback. This can come across as unprofessional and may raise concerns about your ability to work effectively with others. Instead, focus on the specific feedback you had to give and the steps you took to communicate it effectively.

Not reflecting on the experience

Finally, it's important to reflect on the experience and what you learned from it. This demonstrates that you are able to take away valuable lessons from difficult situations and apply them to your future work. Simply describing the situation without any reflection may make it seem like you are unable to learn and grow from challenging experiences.

Sample Answers

  1. "One time, I had to give difficult feedback to a coworker who was consistently missing deadlines on a project we were working on together. I knew that this was a serious issue because it was affecting the entire team's ability to meet our deadlines. I scheduled a meeting with the coworker to discuss the issue and explain the impact their missed deadlines were having on the team. I made sure to listen to their perspective and try to understand any challenges they were facing that might be contributing to the issue. We ended up coming up with a plan to set clear deadlines and check in with each other regularly to ensure that we were meeting them. As a result of this feedback and our efforts to address the issue, the coworker's performance improved and we were able to complete the project on time."

  2. "I had to give difficult feedback to a coworker who was not following proper safety procedures on a construction site. This was a serious issue because it could have resulted in accidents or injuries. I approached the situation by first speaking with my supervisor to make sure I had a clear understanding of the proper procedures and why they were important. I then scheduled a meeting with the coworker to discuss the issue and explain the importance of following safety procedures. I made sure to listen to their perspective and offer support to help them understand and follow the procedures going forward. As a result of this feedback and our efforts to address the issue, the coworker's performance improved and we were able to maintain a safe work environment."
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