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How to Answer "What Gets You Upset on the Job?"

by M.T. Wroblewski, studioD

Employees wouldn’t be human if they didn’t get upset on the job – at least from time to time. While no employer wants to hire a prime candidate for anger management classes, it’s rather implausible to believe there isn’t something or someone capable of lighting a fuse. Knowing this, you can prepare for the question, “What upsets you on the job?” by defusing the question and converting it into a positive that reflects well on you as a true professional.

Read the job description for clues about the challenges the job might involve. Often, companies plant a subtle heads-up with red flags such as, “Must be able to calmly meet the demands of customers“ or “Must be skilled at mediating conflict among employees in different divisions.”

Address these red flags head-on by demonstrating your problem-solving and diplomacy skills. You might say, for example: “I’ve often been in the situation of having to placate angry customers, and it’s not always easy to keep your cool. But I’ve learned how to take a breath and pacify them because they are, after all, the lifeblood of a business.”

Underscore your preference for honest and open communication by saying, “I can get upset when people fail to communicate or follow up because it undermines efficiency. But I am confident enough to confront these people and get the information I need so that nothing jeopardizes deadlines or my boss’s expectations.”

Tackle the issue of how you feel about underachievers with grace, for you don’t want to plant the idea that you spend time spying on your co-workers. Say, “I can get upset when I realize that one person or several people don’t do their share while most people are working hard as a team. But I have learned that sometimes people like this need advice or mentoring. If you approach them in the right way, they’re grateful for the help and the team becomes more productive. It’s a win-win.”

Demonstrate your positive outlook by acknowledging that negative malcontents can upset you on the job. Squeeze this lemon into lemonade by showing your skill at preventing their negative influence on you by saying, “I pride myself on being a good company ambassador, so my initial reaction is always to point out the positives. Failing that, I simply zone out negative people so they don’t interfere with my enjoyment of my work.”


  • Prepare to be asked for examples to illustrate your points, so be sure that your answers are honest and sincere.
  • An interviewer may take the question further by presenting you with a hypothetical situation and how you would respond to it. Think about the question carefully – there is no reward for a fast answer – and if you need extra time to mull it over, say so and then return to it when you’re ready.

About the Author

With education, health care and small business marketing as her core interests, M.T. Wroblewski has penned pieces for Woman's Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and many newspapers and magazines. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images