How Would You Handle An Angry Co-Worker? An Angry Customer?

Angry employee

It’s something all of us run into at one time or another.

Angry co-workers.

Angry customers.

Some of us prefer to confront these individuals head on. That can work. It can also escalate things into a far worse situation than anyone bargained for.

Some of us prefer to just “look the other way.” No effort is made to cool off the angry co-worker or customer, the hope is someone else will handle it.

It’s probably a good subject to bring up with your applicant. It could go like this:

“Alan, if your co-worker all of a sudden got very angry and it was clear this anger was having a bad effect on other employees, what would you do?”

After Alan tells you what he might do, ask him if his approach would be any different with an angry customer. And if so, how so?

You could go one interesting step further here and actually drill an example or two.

“Alan, I’m going to play the role of an angry co-worker (or customer) and I would like to see how you’ll respond.”

You dig a little into your early acting days, summon up a bit of anger, and you have it with your applicant.

If you go this route, do your best to make it “real” anger.

You could try a few different situations.

With a customer, you could be angry about a product or service that was recently purchased.

You could be angry with the company overall because of something you read in the local papers.

You could even be angry with the applicant directly because you thought he did not treat you well.

As you can see, there’s a number of ways to approach this subject with your applicants. Whatever approach you use, you’re more than likely to gain an insight or two into your applicant.

What Would You Do Differently?


I like this question for the hiring interview.

You could get specific with:

“Adam, in your last position with your previous employer, what would you do differently?”

You could get very specific with:

“Adam, in your last position, tell me about an outcome that didn’t go very well.”

Adam does.

And then:

“Thinking about that now, what would you do differently?”

You could go broad with:

“Adam, you’ve been in the workforce for fourteen years. Looking back on those fourteen years, what would you do differently?”

In some cases, your applicant may be prepared for this kind of question, but I think in most cases, you’ll get an unrehearsed answer. And that should give you a good insight into your applicant.

Should You Use a Recruiter – Part Two


We’re fortunate to have Kathleen Steffey for this second discussion of why you may want to use a recruiter. Press the play button and enjoy!

Here are some links to reach Kathleen:

Her home page.

Her page of her key staff and their qualifications to help you fill important positions.


Her LinkedIn page.

Should You Use a Recruiter? (Part One)


This tip is in the form of a podcast interview, so feel free to press the play button above.

I am interviewing Kathleen Steffey. Kathy has been recruiting for 25 years and 18 years ago started her own recruiting business. Here are some links to find out more about her:

Her home page.

Her page of her key staff and their qualifications to help you fill important positions.


Her LinkedIn page.

How Did You Handle Disagreements?

Employee Disagreement

This could be broken down into three parts:

How did you handle disagreements with customers?

How did you handle disagreements with other employees?

How did you handle disagreements with your superiors or the boss?

There’s a handful of ways that someone deals with a disagreement.

One could just succumb, or give in, and let the other party have his or her way.

One could push hard to get one’s viewpoint across so that the other person accepts, at times begrudgingly.

One could avoid the whole thing and just move on to another subject.

Handling a disagreement is going to differ depending on whom it is with. We might go the distance with a fellow employee, but buckle fairly quickly if we’re talking to our boss.

Or maybe we feel so strongly about something, that we feel compelled to get the boss to change his or her mind.

A number of possibilities here, so get in there and ask away. Work on getting specific incidents of dealing with disagreement.

Is he or she pushy or simply determined to straighten things out? Is he or she so backed off that they’ll give in at the slightest sign of disagreement? Somewhere in between?

Regardless of what comes up, you’re going to find out some interesting things about your applicant.

Is The Customer Always Right?

I find this to be a fascinating question to ask an applicant.

But before we can do that, you would need to answer the question yourself:

Is the customer always right?

I know some companies believe in this so strongly they have plaques on the wall proclaiming it. Likely not for the customer to see, but visible to all employees.

The idea, of course, is to do everything possible to satisfy the customer so that a) she purchases and b) she’s happy she did so.

And, in theory, that’s a great business principle to live by.

But, in practice, you’ve likely come upon situations where the customer was “so wrong” that you weren’t willing to give away the store just to satisfy him.

I’m thinking the vast majority of you know that judgement enters in and that means employees will be required to apply a bit of judgement from time to time.

So, let’s simply ask the applicant:

“Mary, here’s the next question I’d like you to answer: ‘Is the customer always right?’”

Mary may ask for clarification, and if you want to give some, go ahead. But I’d suggest simply directing Mary back to the question itself and see how she answers it.

If she gives a glib answer, “Yes, I believe the customer is always right,” then you could follow that up with:

“Okay, Mary, that sounds fine. What if the customer believes she gave the cashier a one hundred dollar bill but she factually only provided a twenty-dollar bill? In that instance, is the customer right and you would need to pay her an additional $80 in change that she does not deserve?”

Mary will think about that for a while and give you her best answer.

There may not be a clearly right or wrong answer to the question: “Is the customer always right?” But you will learn if your applicant is thoughtful enough to consider other possibilities here. And this could be important moving forward, as you may not want Mary inclined to give away the store too often.

How Would You Resolve an Employee Dispute?

Upset Employees

You could say, it’s not up to Employee A to resolve a dispute between Employee B and Employee C.

You could say that.

But if the supervisor for Employees A, B and C isn’t around or isn’t into resolving disputes, are we going to just let disputes fester?

Well, sometimes we do.

But let’s check with our applicant and see if she is inclined to get in there and mix things up.

“Mary, let’s say two employees that work near you are having a dispute. It gets a bit loud. The supervisor isn’t around, and you’ve learned the supervisor doesn’t particularly care to get involved in employee disputes. What would you do?”

Mary answers that she wouldn’t try to get involved in such things.

Okay, that’s an honest answer. And maybe a good approach as Mary worries that she risks making the dispute worse if she involved herself.

Or Mary answers that she’d want to do what she could to resolve the dispute. If that’s what Mary would do, let’s find out how she would do that.

“That sounds very responsible, Mary. Could you let me know how you go about that?”

And Mary does.

This is one of those hiring tips where there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer. But it will give you some insight into how your applicant views her position in the workplace.

Not wanting to rock the boat and taking the safe route.

Or being pro-active and keen on fixing things that appear to need fixing, even if fixing them isn’t specifically in her job description.

Again, either way, you’re going to learn something of value about your prospective employee.

Will They Contribute to the Organization’s Mission?

Chocolate Strawberries

If you’ve been reading these tips for a while, you know I like to define terms. So, let’s look at a definition of mission:

The purpose or the most important aim of an organization.

Before you can find out how your applicant will contribute to your organization’s mission, we need to establish with the applicant what that is.

You could simply state it to the applicant, or you could take a shot at asking them what it is. This second approach will reveal how much research they did before showing up for the interview.

Okay, it’s established the mission is to make such an amazing chocolate-covered strawberry that people feel compelled to immediately tell their friends about it.

Now, let’s ask the simple and direct question:

“Alice, how do you see contributing to our mission?”

If they don’t answer fairly quickly with a well-thought-out answer, it’s not necessarily the end of the world. Well, frankly, no bad answer to any hiring interview question is the end of the world, but I digress. They could be a great hire and then learn over time how to contribute to your company’s purpose.

But if they do impress you with their answer, that’s a good indicator that they did a bit of due diligence before they showed up for the interview.

And one approach to evaluating applicants is how many “good indicators” are they collecting for themselves? More, of course, is better.

Can We Generalize About Young Applicants?

I should first explain what I mean by the title of this tip.

To generalize means to make a general or broad statement inferred from specific cases.

And, for the purpose of this tip, let’s use the ages 18-25 to define what a young applicant is.

I imagine most, if not all of us, are interviewing these younger applicants. Can we, should we make any general conclusions about them?

In one respect, I’m thinking we should not make any general conclusions about this section of the workforce. Doing so might cause you to overlook or miss out on superb candidates.

But, from another respect, if we feel we have specialized information about this “applicant group,” it may help us as we navigate the hiring process with them.

Here’s what various studies have come up with:

• This age group wants the company’s purpose to align with their purpose. This could include how they feel about the environment and how they feel about various social issues.

• When they study the company online, they will likely look for how involved the company is in community activities.

• A healthy majority of them look to reviews about companies before they make a decision about a job offer.

• A good percentage want to work in small groups in an office environment.

• Despite being very savvy in digital technology, many prefer face-to-face contact with fellow employees than email or phone.

• They tend to be more creative and entrepreneurially oriented than previous generations.

So, that’s good data to know about this sector, right?

What else do we know about them?

Well, I’ve personally interviewed many business owners, CEOs and HR people over the last 13 years. A few recurring concerns have come up:

• In too many instances, a job was offered, but the applicant didn’t show up on the starting date AND did not notify anyone that they weren’t coming.

• Some feel entitled about how much money they should be paid right off the bat, without necessarily proving themselves. Or perhaps they felt deserving of a special schedule just for them.

• Some have made demands that they felt must be in place before they would give their approval to get started with you.

The overall information above about this 18-25 group is interesting and possibly helpful. But you should also be a healthy skeptic about this data. Knowing the above may make it easier for you to interview them, and you may not be as surprised by different things that come up in the interview. You may decide to be very proactive by ensuring your online reviews are monitored and responded to.

If you are likely to be hiring a good number from this age segment, perhaps you put some quality time into how your company can be more socially conscious and more involved in social activities.

But, in the end, you are interviewing the person in front of you. His “age group’s tendencies” are not something you should overly focus on. Every person is a unique individual. That person in front of you may be uniquely qualified to do what you want and may also be an excellent cultural fit for you.

After all is said and done, that’s what you’re looking for, right?

Salespeople — What Should You Look for?

The Hiring Tips Newsletter has grown to 275 tips. Sixty-five of the best tips are available in the book, How to Hire The Right People.

99% of these tips are simply that. A way of looking at some aspect of the hiring process that will make that process easier, more efficient and even more successful.

1% of the tips promote our employee testing service in some way. This tip will be in that 1%.

Our personality profile test reveals a great deal of information about people. It can be used for any position, from a high-level executive to a stock clerk; from a dental assistant to a bookkeeper.

Recently I was asked how would our test help with hiring salespeople. I looked through the test results and found the following traits revealed. When you read over these traits, consider how important they would be for a salesperson:

• Makes plans and carries them out
• Adapts easily
• Steady, calm
• Reliable
• Good sense of certainty at work
• Consistent
• Energetic 
• Takes initiative
• Self-assured
• Proactive
• Truthful

Those are traits on the positive side of the ledger. On the negative side, consider the following traits that you would NOT want to see in a salesperson:

• Poor concentration
• Difficulty maintaining control
• Easily distracted
• Not reliable
• Lack of certainty
• Passive
• Lacks initiative
• Procrastinates
• Doubts fitness to get things done
• Careless
• Tactless
• Can generate resentment

The above traits, both positive and negative, are traits that our employee test will reveal to you.

Salespeople should be reliable, consistent, truthful, energetic and be able to take initiative. And of course, other traits that are valuable for a salesperson to have.

And we’re likely not to put someone in a sales position who is easily distracted, isn’t reliable, lacks initiative and can generate resentment.

If you are not using our employee testing service, the first thing to do is watch this three-minute video. After you watch the video, we invite you to take the test yourself. You’ll be able to see how accurate it is and just how much information it can provide in making hiring decisions.

Yes, this tip is quite self-serving. But we are very proud of our employee testing service and our clients say things like this:

“We’ve been using your testing service for a while now. Prior to using your test, we just had too much of a revolving door. Now, a much greater percentage of our new hires stay with us and become the kind of employee we set out in the beginning to find.” — P.M. / Clearwater, FL

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