Magoosh GRE

Work Experiences while working at an Advertising Firm: A reflective essay

| March 26, 2015

1. INTRODUCTION

In this reflective essay, I would be reflecting and analysing three work experiences that I was involved in while working at the advertising firm. This reflective essay would entail objective, subjective and analytical reflections on those particular experiences, and learning outcomes that have ensued from analysing those scenarios.

2. STUDENT BACKGROUND
During my period as an employee within the organization, I worked as a market analyst within the Creative department. Most times I had to come up with research information on client’s target market and present that to the Creative Director, who would then come up with advertising campaigns that could be effective in targeting those markets. I was part of a team of 15 individuals who were tasked with researching and designing advert campaigns for the company’s clients.

I joined the company as a graduate, and worked there for 3 years before I started my master degree in the UK. While working at the organization, I got to discover more about the organisation’s culture, worked in several teams, and led a team of 8 people who were designing a local advert campaign.

I chose to write my reflective essays on three experiences at work, because I was able to come up with substantial data that could be analysed using existing theories on leadership, conflict management, teamwork, organizational culture and creativity. Though I do have some academic experiences, they are quite limited with respect to the analysis I can perform, and I have used some of them in previous assignments.

3. REFLECTIVE PORTFOLIO
A. ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE
i. Objective Reflection
A vast majority of line managers at the company where I worked had been there fore more than 10 years. The organization operated an ascension system, whereby all the managers started off in the company as entry-level graduates. I was assigned to the marketing team for a new major product launch, and we had to come up with a marketing strategy based on previous product launches that the company had introduced. The task basically entailed the marketing team reinventing the wheel on previous marketing campaigns, changing a few slogans and graphics, and inserting the new product into the ad. Apparently, I found that the company had launched new products historically by using previous market campaigns so as to reduce costs associated with graphic design, new advert campaigns and rebranding.

However, I came up with a different approach to the marketing. I realized that contrary to the predominant market segment of 45+ individuals, this new product launch was also suitable to the 25+. However to attract this market, one would need a modified marketing approach. I therefore designed a slightly different marketing campaign and presented this to the creative director. On seeing what I had done, he expressed his appreciation for my effort, but rejected the marketing proposal and asked me to go back and reproduce the marketing campaign as it had been requested.

He cited that the organization was used to a particular way of doing things, which its clients were well accustomed to, and any effort to change its brand perception or marketing strategy could seriously impact on sales. I received his feedback and reworked on the marketing campaign to what had been initially requested. Following that event, I worked on each campaign based on what was requested, and made no attempt to incorporate any of my ideas.

ii. Subjective Evaluation
Prior to joining the organization, I had always been interested in designing an advertising campaign that would give me the opportunity to be creative and innovative. The organization’s brand image and advertisements were usually of the same pattern and never creative. I felt that was boring. Therefore when I first joined the organization, I was very enthusiastic about the opportunity I had been given. I felt the need to make an impact and contribute positive change, mostly because I felt that it was going to be possible to change something that I felt was not working within the organization.

When I was given the opportunity of the assignment, I was quite happy to exercise my ‘creative and innovative skills’ by coming up with something totally different. Somehow I thought that every other person within the organization did not have any ounce of creativity in them, and I was the ‘messiah’ who had arrived with my astounding creativity skills to steer the company into a new dimension. I felt content when I designed the campaign. I worked tirelessly, hoping that somehow I would get an astounding amount of recognition from this campaign. When I showed my presentation to the marketing manager, I was honestly expecting a standing ovation or some sort of expression that I had done a great job. However when I saw his facial expression, somehow I knew it would not have been approved.

I think he felt like I did not thoroughly understand the requirements of the project because he said what I showed him was different from what he had expected. However when I explained my view to him, he knew I was serious and opted to constructively reject the work instead. He did express that he understood what I was trying to achieve, and would have recommended it if it was for some other organization, but that our culture did not allow such innovative accomplishments. After that meeting, my motivation in the organization began to dwindle, I lost all thoughts of innovation and creativity and just felt that I should go ahead with whatever the organization requested.

iii. Reflective Analysis
Organizational culture has been defined as the values and beliefs shared by all employees (Martins and Terblanche, 2003). It refers to those set of assumptions that are deeply rooted and accepted as a norm within the organization. In other words, it refers to the way things are done within an organization (Lundy and Cowling, 1996). By reflecting on this exercise, I now understand that the organizational culture within the organization was the reason why the organization adopted its approach to advertising campaigns, and also the reason why I saw it as being stagnant and boring.

I was unaware of the fact that the corporate culture had a huge impact on the way things were done within the organization, that was probably why I initially felt like I had something different to offer and I could indeed make a difference within the organization that already had a predominant strong culture. Robbin (1997) illustrates that a strong culture provides shared values, which ensures that everyone in the organization thinks and works along the same line. The strong culture within the organization would have probably been built as a result of the company’s method of recruitment. Since a vast majority of its managers come in as graduates, then it is very likely they would have not an external view of creativity in any other organization, hence the reason why they’re so immersed in the culture within the company.

Tushman and O’Reilly (1997) further assert that the culture of an organization is a contributing factor in the extent to which creativity and innovation occur within the organization. The culture within the organization did seem to support a pre-existing value of stability and predictability, and was not so supportive of creativity, in the way in which most of its new ads were remakes of pre existing ads, and no attempt had been made to change the way in which things had always been done within the organization. Creativity can vary between individuals, groups and organizations as a whole, and the extent to which they are promoted, depends on the culture within the organization (Martins and Terblanche. 2003). Lock and Kirkpatrick (1995) further assert that the organizational culture affects the extent to which creative solutions are encouraged, supported and implemented within an organization. A creative culture supports individual thinking and promotes creativity and innovation, however a culture based on predictability and re-inventing the wheel, does not necessarily support such (Brodtrick, 1997).

Now that I reflect back on my need to be creative and the lack of support for creativity within the organization, I now realise that maybe the organization would not have been the best place for me to express my views and try to make an impact on the way things are done. This view has been supported by Lundy and Cowling (1996), who depicted that individual cultures have to match that of the organization in order for the individual to stay motivated and enthusiastic.

B. TEAM CONFLICT
i. Objective Reflection
The department I worked at within the advertising firm was composed of a number of up to 15 employees, and most times, we had to compete with each other to come up with good advertising ideas, or slogans that would be included in the next advertising campaign. Often times, the employee who was regarded as the most creative was usually rewarded with managerial recognition, a better end of year bonus and possible promotion if the performance improves. On this fateful day, I was part of a group of 6 individuals who were given the task of designing a new advertising campaign for one of our client’s failing products. The product was introduced into the market 2 years ago, and had been witnessing falling sales since the initial hype surround its launch extinguished. A new competition had sprung up and was steadily gaining market share at the expense of the company. Our team’s task therefore was to come up with a new marketing mix that could push the product deeper into the market, and establish a new awareness for the benefits of the product. We had 3 team sessions weekly when we all came up with ideas about how to promote the product.

On one of these sessions, I had an argument with a fellow team member. He proposed that the best way to approach the market was to maintain prices ahead of competition, and leverage the company’s brand as a market leader in several other products and keep the current promotion strategies as they were, while just increasing advertisements in the media. However, I had a different view. I proposed that the company should reduce its prices, sell the products through different means and advertise them in separate media, mainly through different categories of magazines that targeted their specific market segment.

The conflict ensued between both our choices, and eventually the team decided to reduce prices, but still sell the products through traditional means. Thereby adopting a compromise for the team member and me.

ii. Subjective Evaluation
Prior to the commencement of this meeting, I felt like this was going to be one of several other ’brainstorming’ sessions when we were all asked to adopt traditional measures and no creativity would be accepted. However, after careful consideration of the team requirements, my feelings changed and I started to think this could be different and I could really have a chance to make some impact. During the team sessions, I always felt on top of my game, and I become even more convinced that a new idea could actually make a difference and drive sales.

Traditionally most of the team members came up with ideas, and we all discussed and talked about them during sessions. I think that the other members felt like they had to contribute something as well, because they kept on suggesting new ideas, even when other members had agreed on something.

I think my other teammate who came up with the second idea, felt that if everyone went ahead with my idea, and then it would mean that I would get all the recognition and he would have missed his chance. I believe so, because he acknowledged that my approach was good, right before he came up with something else that was totally different.

I think that was the reason why he promoted his strategy and opted not to let it go aside for mine. I believe that it was his unwillingness to compromise and avoid conflict that resulted in him being adamant. This led to the conflict that ensued over the following week. I think the other team members then realized this and thereby opted to adopt a democratic approach by opting to choose recommendations from both of us, hoping that would resolve the conflict and ensure the team moved ahead.

Though they must have thought that I was content with the approach because I did not voice any other opinions, I felt like it was an unfair way of reducing conflict, without looking at the bigger picture. I felt like my approach was a better approach to reduce cost and sell the products to a new market.

iii. Reflective Analysis
Looking back at the situation, I now realise that the reason why everyone opted to contribute ideas every single time, was not necessarily because they had something to say, but because each member of the team was trying to be useful and be seen as effective in team situations. According to Appelbaum et al (1999) teams are considered to be essential in overcoming or supplementing individual weaknesses, and also collating all the skills of each team member in coming up with beneficial ideas and results, that each individual member would have been unable to achieve on their own. Teams are created with the main aim of promoting values such as better communication, multi-skilling and co-operation (Robbins and Finley, 1997). However, teams that are made up of individuals pursuing personal or selfish agendas could also lead to a detriment of the whole project, as opposed to a beneficial outcome (Sawyer, 2001). This is what happened during out team meetings. Each team member was pursuing an individual agenda, which made it impossible for the team as a whole to reach any consensus on the solutions sought, thereby leading to the intragroup conflict that ensued in the team.

De Dreu and Weingart (2002) assert that despite the fact that teams are created with the objective of improving organizational effectiveness, one major challenges that should normally be catered for is intragroup conflict, which is defined as ‘the process resulting from tension between team members due to real or perceived differences (p. 3).’ According to Passos and Caetano (2005), group conflicts are further divided into task related conflicts and emotionally related conflicts. The former refers to disagreements that ensue as a result of the task that the team is working on, while the latter refers to disputes that arise between team members who are unable to work effectively with each other (Choudrie, 2005). Based on these definitions, I had a task related conflict within the group.

Green and Taber (1980) assert that when people from different backgrounds, cultures or with different goals, there is bound to be conflict. However the emphasis is not necessarily on whether conflict arises but on how it is dealt with (Jablin and Krone, 1987). In order to settle those differences, Barki and Hartwick (2001) states that there must be some sort of communication or understanding within the team that would facilitate this process. Based on my understanding and my subjective interpretation of the events, I believe that we had conflicts because we as a team had different goals. I wanted to be creative and contribute a good idea, while I believe he wanted to be assertive and contribute something just so he could be recognised.

The ensuing conflict did not result in any substantial results immediately, because we were both bent on pushing our messages across and no one was ready to comprise one for another. This severely slowed down the team’s productivity and also confirms Choudrie’s (2005) view in that conflicts are unproductive for the organization and resolutions should be sought as soon as reasonably possible.

Sawyer (2001) asserts that if a conflict is settled, then a benefit arises in that multiple perspectives to solving a problem are obtained, and the resultant effect could be much more effective. Though I may not have been happy with the way in which the conflict was settled, I now realize that some elements from both his recommendations and mine were valid, and the team’s decision to compromise actually resulted in a better result, than our recommendations could have resulted in individually. Thereby confirming Jehn’s (1995) view in that task related conflict is beneficial since it allows the exchange of ideas and assists in better performance amongst the group members.

I therefore conform to existing theories on task related conflicts in that they actually do result in a more effective result, if communication channels and conflict are handled adequately.

C. LEADERSHIP
i. Objective Reflection
I was once sent off to a regional office within another state to head a new advertising campaign for a product that was being launched on a smaller scale within the local market place. We basically had to design banners, local classified ads, and word of mouth promotions that were adequate in creating awareness for the product. I was transferred from being a regular marketing analyst in a division of 15 individuals, to head a small team of 5 individuals in a small town and trying to promote a product amongst the local population of 12,000 people.

During team sessions I promoted a lively atmosphere wherein everyone could contribute as much as they could, and were not impeded in sharing their views. An idea from even the lowest member of the group was supported and we were able to deliver on the advertising campaign within the time frame.

It was my first time as a leader in any capacity within the organization, or even outside the organization. The project lasted 3 months, and the product we were promoting was able to sell more than 6,000 units within 2 weeks of launch. My regional manager said we were able to achieve such sales because of the way in which the advertising campaign was handled and I was congratulated for being able to coordinate the team effectively, distribute tasks between people who were competent and able to achieve teamwork.

ii. Subjective Evaluation

Initially, when I was handed the task, I was very scared. I had never led any team of any capacity in my whole life, and I had no idea how to go about it. I felt nervous all the way down to the regional office and even started getting goose bumps when I had to meet with the team of 8 people. It felt like they were expecting me to come about with an autocratic approach, like I was the ‘big boss’ from head office who had come to tell them what to do and dominate their existence for the next few weeks. I think they felt that way because during the initial meetings most of the team members were quiet and expected me to do all the talking. They asked for directions and even permission to get things done.

However, after talking at length with members of the team, my initial panic subsided. I felt we were all human and we could all discuss the campaign without any need for me assuming the micro-manager stance, telling everyone what to do. Though I was head of the team, I felt like I would achieve more by receiving feedback from everyone and making decisions after everyone had voiced their comments. When I expressed my views and promoted this approach, I could see that the meeting room got a little livelier and each person was able to voice their opinions. Whenever I had ideas that they did not approve of, they expressed their views, and I did not feel in the slight bit intimidated or challenged. It was an open environment where everyone could be himself or herself and speak out and I think that was promoted by the initial approach I had adopted.

I felt that the campaign was a success because of how I approached it. Maybe if I had adopted a different leadership stance, they may have resented me, never contributed and just left everything to me. If that happened, I think that the whole campaign would have been a disaster, because I had neither the local knowledge of the market nor the mental capacity to process all the information that was needed. I feel the campaign was a success because of the leadership strategy I adopted.

iii. Reflective Analysis

There has been a number of leadership theories described in several journals such as the Transformational, Transactional, Contingency and Situational theories. However, my actions in relation to how I handed the advertising campaign could be more described in terms of transformational leadership. According to Burns (1978), a transformational leader is an individual who offers purpose that surpasses ordinary objectives and focuses on higher order fundamental goals; thereby describing it as an ongoing process in which leaders and followers collectively raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation. I believe this best describes my action because of the way in which I was able to involve them in tasks and also to share information.

A transformational leader as described by Bass and Riggio (2006) motivates followers to do more than initially expected and the degree of effectiveness attained is a measure of the leader’s effect on followers. For instance, initially the members of my team were laid back and expecting me to have everything done, but when I initiated the feedback process and an open atmosphere, it seemed to motivate each and every member to contribute something and feel part of the team. They no longer needed to ask permissions to do normal tasks, and were even more productive, being able to come up with ideas and take charge of activities on their own. They were optimistic and enthusiastic about the prospects of the ad campaign, which further fuelled their commitment in coming up with more ideas and making it a general success. Research works on transformational leadership depict that it can motivate followers to exceed expectations, as well as lead to higher levels of followers’ satisfaction and commitment to the group (Bass and Riggio, 2006).

The democratic approach that I practised has also been described as a form of transformational leadership by Conger and Kanungo (1998), who asserts that it enables each team member to voice his or her opinions and feel like part of the team. Fiedler and Garcia (1987) also asserts that a democratic approach is ideal in creative teams that need to develop ideas, but still needs a team leader who can steer the team towards the direction of success. The democratic approach I adopted has been proclaimed as more better than the autocratic approach or the laissez faire approach in which the leader is either very imposing, or laid back respectively. Based on this analysis, I believe the reason why I did succeed in this task was because of my ability to motivate the team towards a common goal, and also adopt a democratic approach in conducting team meetings, thereby promoting team motivation and enthusiasm.

D. COLLECTIVE LEARNING OUTCOMES
The experiences that I have reflected on in this essay have been on topics such as organizational culture, creativity, teams, conflict management, and leadership. I have therefore come up with the following learning outcomes, which are as a result of my subjective evaluation of the events and the critical reflective analysis that followed.

i. Culture
A critical review of my experience at the organization has illustrated to me that the reason why I may not have felt motivated was because I was not a cultural fit within the company. In future, whether I am a student seeking a country to travel for holiday; or an employee seeking an organization to apply to; or a manager seeking to employ new workers, I would make sure that culture is one of the important factors I consider first.

I would ensure that I only apply to organizations that I perceive as a cultural fit, and that I know would encourage my creativity regardless of whether my initial creations or ideas are successful or accepted. In my capacity as manager, I would ensure that I personally interview each new employee I am recruiting, in order to ascertain whether their professional values and beliefs conform to that of the organization or not. These actions would ensure that I never again encounter the issue of being culturally unfit, and that I am accepted and recognised wherever I decide to establish myself in.

ii. Team Conflict
Based on my analyses of the events that occurred in my team and the intragroup conflict that ensued, I now thoroughly realize the importance of conflict and conflict resolution and the impact that both can have on teamwork. During team sessions, I would no longer try to avoid team conflict, as long as I am sure it is task related. Whenever I have opinions I strongly believe in, I would voice them, and if there are opposing views, they would also be considered.

However, I would compromise and retract my ideas if I believe they are not adequate after team scrutiny. I would also not promote any ideas just because of personal agenda, as it is one of the main reasons that teams fail. In the advent that two or more potentially good ideas come up in a way that may lead to conflict, I would adopt a negotiator stance and ensure that each idea is analysed for its merits and demerits and the financial result is based on the merits of all ideas, and not just mine. Thereby constructively avoiding conflict and ensuring better team productivity.

iii. Leadership
Analysis of my third leadership experience outlined that I may have the potential to become an effective transformational leader. My actions denoted that of a transformational leader and I was successful at getting the team to adopt a unified stance in getting the work done. However I would not base my future leadership skill on just the task, and therefore assume that I am competent, as this is one of the only times I have exercised any leadership skills whatsoever.

I would endeavour to improve my leadership skills by taking up positions of responsibility in school, at social groups, or at work. I would volunteer to lead teams whenever possible (If accepted), and continue to adopt this form of democratic transformational approach. I hope that by engaging in these activities, I would be able to build my leadership skills up till the point where I would be competent enough to lead a huge number of people towards a common goal of achieving something extra ordinary.
4. CONCLUSION

When I started writing this reflective essay, I never thought that I could find sufficient theories to explain my past experiences, and subsequently derive learning outcomes from them. However, writing this essay has been very beneficial to me. I now know much more about myself, than I never did, and have a set of activities that I intend to carry out, in order to become more effective at what I do. I plan to use the learning outcomes on improving my team, conflict resolution, leadership, creative, and culture awareness skills.
Word Count: 4,333

5. REFERENCES
Appelbaum, S.H., Bethune, M., Tannenbaum, R. (1999), “Downsizing and the emergence of self-managed teams”, Participation and Empowerment: An International Journal, Vol. 7 No.5, pp.109-30

Barki, H., Hartwick, J. (2001), “Interpersonal conflict and its management in information systems development”, MIS Quarterly, Vol. 25 No.2, pp.195-228

Bass, B. M. And Riggio, R. E. (2006) Transformational Leadership, New York: Routledge. 282p

Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership. New York: Harper & Row. In: Northouse, P. G. (2007) Leadership: theory and practice 4th ed. London: SAGE Publications. 395 p

Brodtrick, O. (1997), “Innovation as reconciliation of competing values”, Optimum, Vol. 27 No.2, pp.1-4.

Choudrie, J. (2005) Understanding the role of communication and conflict on team development, The Journal of Enterprise Information Management, Vol. 18 (1), pp64 – 78

Conger, J. A. And Kanungo, R. N. (1998) Charismatic leadership in organizations. London: Sage Publications. 288p

De Dreu, C., Weingart, L.R. (2002), “Task versus relationship conflict, team performance, and team member satisfaction: a meta-analysis”, unpublished manuscript, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam

Fiedler, F. E. and Garcia, J. E. (1987) New approaches to effective leadership

Green, S., Taber, T. (1980), “The effects of three social decision schemes in decision group performance”, Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, Vol. 25 pp.97-106

Jablin, F.M., Krone, K.J. (1987), “Organisational assimilation”, Handbook of Communications Science, Sage, Newbury Park, CA, pp.711-46.

Jehn, K. (1995), “A multi-method examination of the benefits and detriments of intra-group conflict”, Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 40 pp.256-82

Lock, E.A., Kirkpatrick, S.A. (1995), “Promoting creativity in organizations”,

Lundy, O., Cowling, A. (1996), Strategic Human Resource Management, Routledge, London,

Martins, E. C., and Terblanche, F. (2003) Building organizational culture that stimulates creativity and innovation, European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 6 (1), pp64 – 74

Passos, A. M., and Caetano, A. (2005) Exploring the effects of intragroup conflict and past performance feedback on team effectiveness, Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 20 (3/4), pp231 – 244

Robbins, H., Finley, M. (1997), Why Teams Don’t Work: What Went Wrong and How to make it Right, Orion Business Books, London

Sawyer, S. (2001), “Effects of intra-group conflict on packaged software development team performance”, Information Systems Journal, Vol. 11 No.2, pp.155-78.

Tushman, M.L., O’Reilly, C.A. III (1997), Winning through Innovation: A Practical Guide to Leading Organizational Change and Renewal, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.

6. APPENDIX

A. ASSIGNMENT 1 FEEDBACK

So, your elaborate description of each task led into the, as you put it, feelings examination and experience re-evaluation. This would all be great, if you brought in any theory linked with the OA areas covered in our sessions, which was not the case (apart from informing us that you are an activist learner and an implementer according to Belbin’s team roles). It is not possible to analyse the learning process based only on analysis of your feelings. At the same time in certain parts of your work you focused on others, ie team work rather than your own behaviour. If I understand well, you were refferring a lot to your communication style, but never explicitly mentioned it (apart from in the last section,when you mentioned the need to develop listening skills). Overal there is a scope for your self reflectiveness, but you did not manage to enter the depth of it.

B. RESPONSE TO FEEDBACK

Reading the feedback from my previous task, I now know where I went wrong. I was focusing too much on my experience and that of my team, without taking the time out to analyse it using existing theories that had been taught during the OA module. Somehow I must have felt that analysing the situation based on just my feelings was sufficient, but now I stand corrected and have made every effort to rectify that in this essay.

I also understand that the only major theories I incorporated in my work were that of Belbin’s team roles. Though this may have been needed in explaining my team activities during those tasks, it is not sufficient in analysing my feelings and the team dynamics that were in motion. I also understand that in some part of the work, I focused on other’s feelings, rather than mine. I have also made every effort to rectify that in this essay by analysing just my feelings. If ever I referred to another person’s feelings, it would be based on what I thought they were feeling, with substantial evidence to prove that they must have been feeling that way.

Instead of just explaining the situation and my feelings, I have taken a step further to incorporate a vast amount of theoretical evidence to analyse those experiences. This has made it possible for me to have a deeper understanding of those events and have therefore made it establish objective learning outcomes, based on what existing theories said about what I did.

This feedback has helped me structure this work more appropriately, and analyse my experience more in-depth. Based on the feedback received, the reflective essay, I just wrote, I have learnt a whole, and I hope that everything I learn would steer me in the path of academic and professional success.

Category: Business Essay Examples, Essay & Dissertation Samples, Reflective Essay Examples