Developing Assertiveness at Work

What does it mean to be assertive? Being assertive is being able to articulate your wants and needs to another person, in this case your boss or co-worker, and welcoming their wants and needs as well.

You are to start your leave next week Monday, and your boss decides to give you a load of paperwork at 2:30pm, Friday which you ARE very sure you cannot finish before COB (Close of Business day). What do you react?

You have 4 options:

  1. Take the paperwork silently, swallow your feelings and harbour resentful feelings towards her for ruining your day and potential leave, and start right away,
  2. Return the paperwork in a rude manner, calling her out, telling her that she is not considerate and was trying to ruin your day and make you come in the next week.
  3. Or take the paperwork silently and just leave it on your desk without touching it or telling your boss you won’t be able to do it or finish it.
  4. Or simply tell her that you will get the work done upon your return from your leave.

Which would you choose?

The first was passive, the second aggressive, the third response passive-aggressive, and the fourth assertive. Look closely at each response. The will bring out different responses from your boss. The first 3 responses could harm you in various ways- lead to you being walk all over every time, being fired or worse. Being assertive involves advocating for yourself in a positive, clear, direct, honest and proactive way. It isn’t being disrespectful but saying your mind in a respectful, diplomatic way.

How can one be assertive?

Assertiveness is a skill that takes practice. It may always be easier for you to swallow your feelings, scream at someone or give them the silent treatment. But assertiveness is a better strategy. It works because it respects you and others.

  1. Start small

If you have never been assertive you can start with little things. You don’t have to stand up to your boss out of the blues, you can try with asking by asserting yourself while someone is trying to jump queue or telling your colleague no for a change.

2.      Learn to say no

Stop saying yes to everything. It isn’t selfish like you think most times. Setting healthy limits is important to having healthy relationships. If you want to be more assertive at work, you need to say no more often, at least for your wellbeing

3.      Let go of guilt

Are you feeling guilty for not covering up for your co-worker who is always using you? Are you feeling guilty for telling him no, etc.? Have you been a people-pleaser for a long time? Or are you someone who doesn’t like confrontations and would rather everyone walk over you?

4.     Clearly express your needs and feelings

No one knows what you want, need or are feeling at every point in time. You need to let those around you know what you need, even at work. Make use of ‘I’ statements. This have a way of making people less defensive. Express your feeling clearly. Focus on the real issue. You don’t like how a report was done? Be clear and specific. Don’t muddy issues.

You can also read up stuff on assertiveness and keep practicing.

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