Answering thorny employment interview questions that focus on under-performing co-workers can be dicey. Here is a good way to respond without coming across as being too negative.
This is one of those job interview questions designed to find out how much initiative you take to solve problems within your group.
Most companies today operate with a very lean staff. Not only do key employees have to pull their own weight, but they are often expected to carry the workload of a person-and-a-half.
Complaining to your manager about a slacker in your group is a cop out. In most cases, minor behavior problems should be resolved without involving the manager.
This is the essence of this interview question. In other words, what success have you had in the past in resolving minor behavioral issues in the workplace?
Examples to help jog your memory:
Be careful not to share a situation that is petty or too personal in nature. It should be a work related annoyance.
The typical reaction to a sub-par team member is to complain about this person behind their back. Often times resentment towards management also builds as team members don't understand why their manager isn't doing something about it.
These negative feelings eventually boil over until someone says something ugly to this person, creating even more tension and hard feelings.
Finally, someone complains to their supervisor about it...usually not in a very diplomatic tone.
Everyone loses in this scenario.
Companies don't want this kind of drama in the workplace. So, they ask employment interview questions to identify team players who will contribute to a positive work environment, and take the initiative to solve problems on their own...without being overbearing or controlling.
So, the best way to answer this interview question is to simply share a real situation, and how your involvement resulted in a positive outcome
Brian was a friendly, upbeat person who everyone liked.
He was definitely an extrovert and always seemed to have a new joke to share. You would enjoy sharing a drink with him after work.
Only one problem.
Brian would frequently pop into your cubicle and talk your ear off, unless you somehow figured out a way to shut him up, and point him in the direction of his own cube.
No easy task.
One day over lunch, 2 team members mentioned Brian's annoying habit to Jeff.
Jeff told them he use to have the same problem with Brian until he came up with a simple way to take control of the situation without offending him.
Please...do tell...they pleaded.
Whenever Brain would stroll into Jeff's cubicle, Jeff would look up and say something like this:
Oh, hello Brian. Hey, I'd love to chat with you, but I am really under the gun today. I have 2 minutes to chat...and then I MUST dive into my day, or I'll be here all night. So, make this quick...
Basically what Jeff did was to immediately take control of this impromptu meeting, and set a firm deadline. It then was easy to interrupt Brian when he ignored the time limit, and tell him it was time to leave.
This worked like a charm and was a win-win-win.
Jeff won because he stayed in control of his day. Brian won because he ran out of places to chat and spent more time doing his job.
And...the company won because everyone was more productive without an ugly confrontation or a bunch of hard feelings.
Do you see the power of a story like this in responding to employment interview questions dealing with human nature?