Personal Application Assignments (PAA)
Following our module experiences you will have the opportunity to write a total of 2 reports that should contain approximately 3-4 pages – called a personal application assignment (PAA). These PAAs will be your way of reflecting and commenting on the module content and discussion experiences and applying some personal interest or experience of yours to the module lesson..
Each PAA should:
a. summarize what you learned from the module exercise(s) including your opinions, feelings, and thoughts;
b. demonstrate some of the knowledge gained from the chapter in the course textbook and/or scholarly journals;
c. show how you plan to apply the acquired knowledge to a real situation of your own or to the same situation if you were to relive it;
d. demonstrate what you have learned about yourself from partaking in the module activities
PAA #1 – Module 3 – Individual and Organizational learning
PAA #2 – Module 6 – Organization Design (strategic design lens)
PERSONAL APPLICATION ASSIGNMENT GRADING SHEET
Your report will be evaluated based on the following criteria.
Needs improvement 5 points Satisfactory
8 points Excellent
Objective description of facts: when, where, who was involved, what happened
Subjective description of feelings, perception and thoughts the occurred during the experience. What were your intentions? Your behavior?
Reflection on the experience from points of view of all the major actors: the behaviors observed
Why did you behave as you did?
practical lessons you derived from analyzing your experience, including possible action steps you can take to be more effective
Relating the experience with at least two concepts from class readings or scholarly articles, including application of concepts to the experience.
Identify at least two action steps that is based on what you have learned about yourself as a result of this analysis? How are you going to put it into practice?
APA format, citation and bibliography 5 points
Spelling/Grammar/Sentence structure/tense 5 points
I worked for one year in the marketing group in the Chicago office of a large public accounting firm. The internal service departments were organized into profit centers and operated like little fiefdoms. We worked very closely with the graphics department. We provided the majority of their work but that did not mean the two departments got along well. In fact, we spent more time battling each other than collaborating. A constant bone of contention for both groups was missed deadlines. Most of the time, a marketing person was the contact with the client, usually a partner in the firm. We set up a production schedule, to which the client would agree, and made every effort to stick to it. But 99 times out of 100, something would happen on the partner’s end that would cause a delay. However, the original deadline was never modified to take these setbacks into account because we were not allowed to tell the partners their requests were unreasonable. This put terrific pressure on both departments, but graphics personnel continually accused us of purposely holding onto information or dragging our feet in order to make their jobs more difficult.
It was very frustrating for me to get my projects completed. From the very beginning, I felt they thought I was an incompetent jerk who was just trying to make their job more difficult. It wasn’t long before I adopted the perception of the rest of my department—graphics was a bunch of uncooperative whiners. I never expected to get good service from them and I didn’t. I dreaded going into their office with changes and kept my communications with them to a minimum. Occasionally, I’d have a confrontation with an artist, which would escalate into an argument with two or three other graphics people. Then I was angry for the rest of the day. I had no idea how to remedy the situation and I was under such pressure to get my work done that I had no time to repair the relationships, even if I had known how to do it.
Looking back, I think that if I had not been so caught up in the intergroup fighting, I would have recognized that the graphics personnel were under as much pressure as I was. At the time it always seemed like “once again graphics was being uncooperative.” But I never stopped to ask myself why they were being so hostile to me and I never put myself in their shoes. One of the things this taught me was that I can be somewhat self-centered and ignore the problems of others when they are a barrier to getting my work done. When graphics stereotyped me, I let myself be influenced by my co-workers rather than making the effort to develop a positive relationship with graphics and get beyond the stereotypes. I felt like one of the gang when we all shared our horror stories about the latest thing graphics had done.
For their part, graphics was probably struggling to keep up with their work and deadlines. Just when they thought they had things under control, we would appear with new changes and requests. Perhaps a lot of their resentment stemmed from feeling that, because of us, they could not control their own workflow. We didn’t want to lose the partners’ business by asking for extended deadlines since they could have hired an outside firm, but graphics had no investment in our service to the partners. Instead, they were worried about satisfying their own clients. And our last-minute changes got in the way of serving their other clients.
There was another person in a different department who was very positive about the graphics department. At the time I remember thinking, “Oh, he must not deal with them on a regular basis like I do or they wouldn’t be so cooperative with him.” It never occurred to me that this person was doing something different than I was and, as a result, had a better relationship with the graphics personnel. And it certainly never occurred to me to ask him what he did to have such a great rapport with the group.
Since other people and groups managed to have good relations with graphics, we could hardly be justified in thinking that they were totally in the wrong. But both groups had stereotyped the other and were unwilling to change their opinions. Even though both our managers knew about the problem, they did not intervene, perhaps because the work always got done somehow. These managers were more focused upon tasks than people, so they never worried about the personal cost of the conflict, and probably did not know how to resolve the problem.
Conflict, defined as “a form of interaction among parties that differ in interests, perceptions, and preferences” (reader, p. 305) is the concept that best helps me understand my experience. Our two departments had different interests in serving our customers and different perceptions about each other and our work demands.
The situation between marketing and graphics was an example of when too much conflict occurs. The following passage could have been written about us. “The combination of negative stereotypes, distrust, internal militance, and aggressive action creates a vicious cycle: ‘defensive’ aggression by one group validates suspicion and ‘defensive’ counter-aggression by the other, and the conflict escalates (Deutsch, 1973) unless it is counteracted by external factors” (reader, p. 307). Graphics never believed that we weren’t holding back information or dragging our feet on purpose. And we never trusted them to do our work well without giving us a hard time. We both complained bitterly about each other and never lost an opportunity to slander the “enemy” to others in the organization, which is a form of aggression. Brown (reader, p. 306) states that managers must intervene when conflict reaches a dysfunctional level but our managers never did. They probably did not want to “rock the boat” as long as things were getting done. But it makes me wonder how much more effective we could have been, had we been able to work through our differences. Someone should have helped the two groups diagnose the conflict and its underlying causes (competing for the scarce resource of time, struggling with uncontrollable last-minute demands and iron deadlines, and allegiance to our department rather than the company as a whole).
Another concept that applies to this incident is perception, the process by which we read meaning into stimuli (workbook, p. 204). Marketing and graphics personnel constructed barriers to communication between each group by using the techniques of selective exposure, selective attention, distrusted source and erroneous translation. We saw, heard, and paid attention to what we wanted to, not necessarily the behaviors that may have been actually occurring. Our stereotypes were consistently reinforced by the perceptions we chose to respond to.
If I were in situation like this again, I would first try to do a better job of managing myself. I would remember that it takes two sides to make a conflict and I need to be as objective as possible and not go along with the group in criticizing “them” so that I feel more a part of the group. Second, had I made the effort, I might have been able to establish at least one positive relationship with someone in graphics. I should have asked my positive colleague how he managed to develop such a good relationship with them. I suspect his advice would have been to spend more time with them, treat them with greater respect, refrain from blaming them when things go wrong, and be more empathetic.
Third, I would talk to my manager or supervisor about the problem. By making my feelings known and telling him or her that I wanted to do my part in conflict management maybe he or she would be more willing to take action. If not, at least I tried. Ultimately, my negative actions only made my job more difficult. I now realize that was not a very smart or effective way to conduct myself.
Finally, I will have a better chance of avoiding conflict if I refrain from distancing myself from difficult people. I will work harder at building and maintaining relationships in situations like this, even though my natural inclination is to “write them off.”
The positive thing about having negative experiences is that hopefully I learn from them. I do not have control over other people but if I act appropriately, I will have a much better chance of getting the cooperation I desire. This experience taught me about the dangers of going along with the group. I know that the next time I am in this situation I will behave differently.