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At the beginning of the year, I had been accepted as an intern in the finance department of a hotel in Chicago, where I worked for six months. It goes without saying it was one of the most challenging activities I had done in my life as it gave me a taste of the real world and how things worked around the office. The internal service departments had been arranged systematically as each department did its own work and at the same time relied on a different department.
I clocked into work every day at 7:30 am as expected. The human resource manager did not take any form of lateness lightly, and as an intern, I felt that I needed to prove myself in front of the rest of my colleagues. His authority intimidated everyone in the office. There were four other interns in our department, and I can say that for most of the time, we got along well. At the beginning of each week, we were briefed on the work to be done by our supervisor, and I remember feeling the pressure to work at my best all the time. I began being so hard on myself.
I remember the first time all the interns were called into a conference before the departmental heads, which was extremely intimidating. Each department had a maximum of five interns to a minimum of two. Everyone sat at their places at the table with the interns directly facing the managers as they briefed us on their expectations in the work environment. All the interns were quiet and very attentive. All I could think about was how I should work hard to make an impression, and maybe it would lead to being permanently employed at the company. After the conference, we all got out relieved that it was over and others even making jokes about it and some guys mimicking one of the managers. I quickly judged, and I thought that this person was not going to be very serious with his work.
The finance department worked very closely with the procurement and purchases department. It was not difficult to notice the rivalry between the two even though we heavily depended on each other. Every time an employee from the other department failed to hand in needed work made us unable to meet our deadlines, which was extremely frustrating. Eventually, the perception that the workers in purchases are a bunch of lazy slackers grew among us. I remember I have always been dreading to go to the purchase department. It was more than often I had confrontations with employees at purchases that ended up spoiling my entire day. I hated this part of the job, and I felt like I did not know how to fix the situation.
Looking back at the situation of rivalry between the two departments, I never considered it from the perspective of the workers at purchases. I realized that they were under as much pressure as we were, and I probably should not have contributed to it either. We were all answerable to our supervisors, and we were all afraid of any conflict with the supervisors, which could probably cost us our jobs. I thought to myself that maybe the workers at purchases thought the same of us too because each department relied on the other, and, to be honest, it is not as if we were always at our best too. However, at the time, I felt that they were just a bunch of slackers who could not complete work at the right time.
This experience changed my perception of myself. I realized that I could be very judgmental and self-centered thinking only about myself and my problems while ignoring other people’s problems. I realized that instead of thinking alone, I was influenced by group thinking and my actions and feelings were affected by my co-workers. Instead of trying to develop a positive and friendly relationship with people from the other department I continued to focus on the conflicts.
Procurement and purchases being in charge of the hotel’s stocks and supplies needed to have a lot of accurate calculations in order to carry out their work properly. Unforeseen problems such as faulty freezers would change the course of their work where masses of stored food would go bad, and new supplies would have to be bought in a short amount of time in order to keep the hotel running. I can admit that their workflow was disrupted quite a number of times during the time that I was there.
Other departments in the organization did not have any problems with purchases, and I thought that the reason was that they never had to work with them directly. I often wonder why I never talked to anyone who never had problems with the workers at purchases. I wish I had known better at the time. The supervisors and managers did not address the rivalry between our departments and I think this can be attributed to the fact that the work was always done.
Conflict can be defined as a form of interaction between different parties that differ in aspects such as perception, preferences and interests (Buchanan & Huczyunski, 2004). This understanding assisted me in realizing what was going on between the two departments and explaining this constant rivalry. Thomas and Kilmann conflict theory describes five styles of dealing with conflicts in organizational behavior varying in their degrees of assertiveness and cooperativeness. These issues include; competition, accommodation, avoidance, collaboration and compromise (Buchanan & Huczyunski, 2004). Both departments displayed competitiveness as we tried to work against each other rather than together as we put our own interests before the others. The interns in our department displayed this among each other, as well. We always sought to work individually rather than together in order to complete a particular task.
Perception is another concept that is displayed and is defined as the process of reading meaning into stimuli (Ray and Schermahorn, 2008). Both departments had different perceptions about each other, and this led to the creation of communication barriers through selective exposure and attention, distrusted source and erroneous translation. These techniques reinforced our perceptions and eventually intensified our conflict (Ray and Schermahorn, 2008).
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Challenging and negative experiences shape a person’s character and behavior. Difficulties we face teach us how to react, conduct and interact with others correctly. From this experience, I learnt how to think for myself and not be swayed by group norms in the organization and in society.
Soon I will be in the work environment again, and I would like to do a better job if put in the same situation. First, I will try not to be so judgmental by learning to accept others’ differences and perceptions. I believe that impulsive negative judgment about a person hinders me from working with them properly in order to achieve the best results.
Second, I would learn how to communicate effectively with my colleagues through the various communication techniques such as listening, expression and feedback. This will enable me to perform the tasks efficiently avoiding conflicts and problems along the way. Communication is the key to maintaining positive relationships with others.
Third, in the future I will learn to work with others and be a team player rather than working individually. Working without assistance can bring about a lot of frustration and stress making it difficult to achieve any positive results in the organization.
Finally, I will take any problems I have with the organization to the manager or the supervisors. This is because the managers are to assist us when we have a problem that needs to be dealt with. This will bring about quality work ethics, and the organizations operations will flow smoothly.
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