You've likely had a boss that you just didn't get along with throughout your career — it's unavoidable!

Maybe they were strict, unorganized, or simply didn't vibe with your ideal management style. It happens.

Regardless of the reason, there is a good and not so good way to answer this type of question. Come prepared with an answer, so you don’t get caught off-guard and say something you’ll regret.

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What's The Point Of This Question?

This question may seem like the interviewer is opening the door for you to share your complaints about your previous boss. However, they're trying to determine:

  • How you handle being put on the spot

  • How well you play with others

  • How you like to be managed

When given the opportunity, will you complain? Or will you reframe your negative experiences and share what you have learned from that experience?

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Be Positive

Yellow balloons with smiley faces. Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

If you do have something negative to say about a previous manager, direct and reframe. Use this opportunity to share what you've learned about yourself and your ideal management style.

Avoid going into great detail about what you didn't like about your previous boss:

My boss was strong-willed, which sometimes made it difficult to communicate new ideas. However, we always managed to talk it out and find solutions that were best for the company.

Highlight Strengths

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Your potential new manager wants to assess how well you will work together. Keep the focus on what skills and experience you bring to this position.

Let your strengths show in your answer and move the interview onto more important questions:

She was so effective at advocating for our department. I learned a lot from her about how to diplomatically manage people, keep communication lines open between departments, and how to advocate for the team.

Demonstrate Loyalty

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Criticizing your old boss may impact how the hiring manager views your potential loyalty to the company. Redirect your answer to show that you're willing to accept accountability:

We had our differences, but I thought it was important to stay focused on our goals and to set up my manager — and my team — for success.

Take Action

Preparation is key for a successful interview!

Giphy of cat putting on sunglasses.

It's totally okay to have negative experiences with a past boss, but when asked this question in an interview:

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This Byte has been authored by

JT

Jamie Taylor

Instructional Designer ✺ eLearning Developer