Explain a Time Someone Told You Do Something You Knew Was Wrong

How would you react if your boss or coworker asked you to do something that you knew was wrong?  Would you simply do what they asked you to do for the easy life?  Or maybe just go along with it because you were scared of speaking out or upsetting a colleague?

How about if you knew what they were asking you to do could be dangerous?  That someone might be injured if you broke a rule or didn’t follow the correct procedure.  Would you then speak up?  And when would you say something?  Immediately or at some point later, once it’s too late?

On an aircraft, safety is of paramount importance – that’s why the airline industry is so heavily regulated.  It’s also why the work of cabin crew and other airline employees is so regimented.  There are policies and a correct way of doing everything – and for very good reason.  Making a mistake could cause a serious accident.

That’s why this is such an important question to get right at the final interview.  Airline recruiters are looking for candidates who will be willing to speak up if they see a coworker do something wrong.  Your colleague might not mean to break the rules but it’s your actions in correcting that mistake that could avert an incident.

This doesn’t mean you have to be aggressive or mean spirited but you’ll be expected to challenge someone if they ask you to do something in contravention of a safety rule.  It could be a fellow cabin crew member, an airport or airline ground worker or even the purser and captain.  If you know something is wrong you have to speak up – straight away.

So how should you be making this challenge?  Well, you’ll definitely have to be assertive – make sure you’re heard and understood.  But this isn’t a time to be aggressive or inappropriate.  You are simply pointing out the mistake and informing the coworker of the correct procedure.  Your actions could save lives

Think about how you might have done this in your past work experiences.  If you have previous experience as cabin crew then you’ll no doubt be able to draw upon incidents that took place during your flying career.  But if you don’t, you should still be able to easily answer this question.

How to answer the question…

Ideally, use an example that may have compromised safety – either yours, customers or your coworkers.  It doesn’t have to be anything major.  Think about someone stacking shelves the wrong way, breaking fire prevention rules, violating security procedures or practising bad hygiene in a restaurant for example.

Demonstrate that you recognised what you were being told to do was wrong.  Then explain why it was important you immediately challenged your supervisor.  Show how assertive you were but also how you handled the situation in a professional, respectful and mature manner.

Once you’ve pointed out the mistake, tell the recruiter how you agreed on a way forward with your supervisor.  You may also have had a debrief or put measures in place to stop something like this happening again.  Perhaps you even delivered training to educate your coworkers about the correct rules and procedures.

In answering this question you have to prove your ability to be assertive.  Remember, this isn’t about a being rude but should be a professional discussion with your supervisor that creates a long-term positive impact.

Mateusz Maszczynski

Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.

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