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Common Medical School Interview Question #7

“Tell me about a time you did not get along with a superior.”

I have been volunteering with a local battered women shelter since I was in my first year of undergrad. Working at the shelter can be rewarding, but also incredibly difficult.

My direct supervisor is Wendy, a stoic and outwardly unemotional woman, also a volunteer. I did not see her at the shelter often, as she usually did nightshifts. But our shifts did overlap a few times and still she said nothing to me or the rest of the crew. As her colleagues, we found it strange and demeaning that Wendy never spoke to us directly but sent memos with tasks and priorities via email or text. And while this was affecting everybody at work, nobody said anything to her.

After working at the shelter for a year, I and some of my colleagues decided to discuss Wendy’s behavior with the shelter’s senior manager. We were surprised to find out that Wendy was herself a resident of this shelter many years ago and that her behavior is a result of a speech defect that resulted from an injury she obtained during her previous homelife. She was still uncomfortable with her speech and chose not to communicate with us directly. This experience was profound for me. This truly taught me never to make assumptions about people.

We also learned that not only was Wendy great at managing the facilities and making sure these women and their families were well taken care of, which we already knew, but that she was also the reason for obtaining funding for our lunches, team events, and employee’s bonuses. She has never shared this information with us before. Since our discussion with the senior manager, we have made some effort to engage Wendy in group chats on WhatsApp and other platforms, so she can feel as part of the team. We certainly do not care that she has a speech impediment, but we are not going to force her to speak with us. I hope now, she understands how much she is appreciated and well-liked by her colleagues.

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