Assertiveness in the Workplace

Being Assertive in the Workplace

Assertiveness in the workplace is very important: Whenever we are dealing with our staff and colleagues at work, we find ourselves in situations where you feel uncomfortable because of differing demands, expectations, and perceptions. 

There are times where we deal with things that are not clear.  For example, when a member of our staff or a colleague is openly difficult, you know what we have to deal with.

Often, we find ourselves dealing with people who clam up and appear easy on the outside, but they’re acting out their hostility towards us in a hidden way. It’s hard work to expose what exactly it is they’re doing.

Also, we always face, for example, a situation that requires us to do the following;

  1. Talk about issues that can cause recrimination
  2. Refuse unreasonable requests from our teams, and colleagues 
  3. Giving someone undesirable feedback
  4. Communicate unpopular decisions to staff members
  5. Deal with colleagues who keep moving the goalposts
  6. Manage staff members who keep ducking out of commitments 

As managers, we are unique, with our individual styles of managing ourselves and others. So, the way we handle these things differs and leaves some powerful effects on how we feel about ourselves, our staff, and colleagues. 

Some managers choose to deal with work issues aggressively, while others just become overly permissive. Both styles have consequences that question our leadership suitability. 

Being aggressive can achieve short term objectives, but it doesn’t create a respecting and trusting workplace relationship in the long term. 

On the other hand, being overly permissive, you’re resigning yourself to difficult situations. That can lead you to get disrespected, undermined, taken advantage of, or excluded, – and you end up doubting your own ability to manage others.

Also read: What Makes a Good Team Leader

How to Be More Assertive and Confident at Work?

Being assertive in the workplace doesn’t mean making yourself a bully or jerk – it’s not about to reveal yourself as mighty with the right to do or say what you want.  Assertiveness is a balance between being passive and aggressive. 

You can make demands, show desires, communicate ideas and opinions to your staff and others, but in a respectful way.  It’s about you being confident and assured without self-honoring.

There are real benefits if you adopt an assertive approach to the way you deal with common workplace issues such as those below:

1.  Know what you want

What do you really want?  It’s difficult to be assertive unless you know what you want people to do.  Make up your mind and decide what you want.  If honesty, consistency, commitment, and reliability are important to you, you have to spell them out very clearly.  People can’t read your mind. You’ve to let them know what you want, so they can deliver. 

When you’re asking staff members to do something, call them by their names and then make the statement you want. It gets their attention and allows them to get ready to listen to you. 

Your demands must be realistic in the sense that, the person you’re asking has the skills or the authority to give you what you want.  

But always stick to what you want – don’t change your mind because someone is making explanations, justifications, or apologies.

2.  Deal with impossible people

In many workplaces, there are individuals who think they’re above the rules.  These so-called impossible or untouchables can cause a headache for anyone. 

But if you’re a passive manager it can be worse.  They usually come to work late and are the first to leave. 

Also, they’re always absent or disappear from work without any explanation. They tend to be vocal, loud, and intimidating.  So, you end up accepting that whatever rules in place don’t apply to them.  Their behaviors are not good, and usually, affect the rest of the staff members.  You have to deal with them.

Look in their eyes and then say, “when you’re late someone else must do your job.” Don’t bother to ask why they’re late – it will only trigger lengthy conversations that can weaken your stand.  And avoid saying “next time ring me if you know you will be late” – that will give them the opportunity to continue with their habit.

For someone who’s chronically absent from work, talk very briefly about their absenteeism record.  Look into their eyes and then ask with some energy, “what exactly is going on?” Wait calmly for an answer. 

Whatever they say, stress that taking time off work without a genuine reason is not acceptable and will not be tolerated anymore.

Relevant article: Outrageous Things Managers do that Destroy Trust in the Workplace

3.  Self-assertive

Don’t use words that convey a low sense of self-esteem to describe yourself to your staff or any other listeners. You may be using words like “I’m just the manager in this department” to show your humbleness, but in fact, you’re devaluing yourself.  

Such words can give others the opportunity to make negative opinions and judgments about you. 

Instead, say something like, “I’m the head of this department”, this makes you sound and look confident even when you’re not.

4.  Present your ideas as statements

Present your ideas as statements rather than questions.  This shows that you’re confident.  Always avoid using tags “like isn’t that a good idea?” Or “don’t you think it’s?” Those are manipulative words and non-assertive. 

If you want to check how someone feels, lead the person into approving by saying something like, “I believe it’s a fantastic idea.  What do you think?”  People will always endorse your ideas if you lead them.

5.  Own your feelings

Use “I” when making statements like, “I feel disappointed,” rather than “it’s disappointing.”  Remember that no one has the power to make you feel anything.  You must own your feelings to be in control of any situation.

6.  Mind your business

Don’t take responsibility for anything good or bad that doesn’t concern you.  It’s not your business.  So, avoid taking anyone’s responsibility, whether it’s a colleague or a senior manager.  If you feel tempted to do it, evaluate the situation carefully and then decide.  Remember, it’s your own decision, and you alone to make.

7.  Don’t feel inferior

In a situation where you’re being offered assistance, evaluate it carefully before accepting the offer.  If a fellow manager genuinely offers to help, and you feel it’s needed, accept without feeling guilty or inferior about it.  But don’t take the offer if you can deal with the situation. 

Some managers want to show their superiority by pretending to be helping.  You need to know that, workplaces are full of bogus managers who always enjoy undermining colleagues, especially if you’re new in the job.

8.  Watch out for blackmail

There’s always a colleague who engages in emotional blackmail. The person always come up with crap like, you’ve to help me out otherwise I’m in real trouble. I can’t cope anymore.  These people often lookout for a vulnerable colleague to manipulate with their emotional blackmail.  It’s their way of making you feel guilty.

When you feel guilty of being unpopular with them, you end up doing what they want.

9.  Say No to blackmail

Resist this kind of manipulation from anyone.  If, a colleague tries to manipulate you, listen to the person, but take these steps before you respond. 

Say some probing words like; “I’ve listened to your issue, but what will you do if I was on vacation?”  Keep your questions sharp, short and directed to their perceived threat. 

Make sure you mask your emotions.  You must have command of your voice tone to relate to your probing words rather than the emotional message you’ve received from the colleague.

10.  Give negative feedback

Don’t be afraid to give negative feedback to anyone.  Always find a suitable time and place to deliver negative feedback to your staff members.  Your criticism is less likely to be heard if the person feels vulnerable. 

If possible, give the person a fair early warning such as, “will it be possible for me and you to get together later today for a chat?”  “There are a few things I want to discuss with you.”

When you’re delivering your feedback, avoid generalizing the issues. Only describe concrete events such as, “you haven’t updated the visual performance management board for the last two days” rather than “you don’t update the board and always leave it for others.”

11.  Challenge yourself

Challenge yourself if you feel that something is a risk, and ask yourself why?  What is stopping you?  Is it the reaction you assuming you will get from your staff members, colleagues, or personal fear of failure? 

Remember that your staff and colleagues only have power over you, for as longs you’re prepared to give it to them.

In conclusion, learning to behave assertively can help you to deal with undesirable management situations and progress your career further if that is in your plan.  Sometimes it’s hard to achieve everything you aim for.  But always be clear and specific about what you want and stick to it.  

Don’t give in to excuses, or never become a nodding horse just to please your staff or colleagues.  You have the right to assert your strong views on things that matter to you.  

I would like to hear from you, please leave your thoughts in the comments box below

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