How to be assertive at work

Tips for How to Be Assertive at Work

Many skills can help you advance your career and achieve the professional success you want. One of those skills is knowing when and how to be assertive without being aggressive. Using the right amount of assertiveness in the workplace can help you negotiate a higher salary, earn a promotion and establish better relations with your colleagues. In this article, we discuss the benefits of assertiveness in the workplace, how assertiveness is different than aggressiveness and how to develop the assertiveness skills needed to help you be successful in your career.

Assertiveness in the workplace is a key communication skill that allows you to speak up for yourself in a manner that is respectful and appropriate for the work environment. Assertiveness means being confident in communicating your skills, abilities and goals without being pushy. Assertive people can effectively advocate for themselves and their interests. Assertive people are not seeking better treatment than anyone else, they are simply asking for the respect they deserve. Assertive people also know when and how to say no to a request.

How is being assertive different from being aggressive?

Sometimes people may misunderstand the meaning of assertiveness and how it is different from being aggressive. However, understanding this difference is very important to your career success. Unlike aggressiveness—which is marked by obtrusive energy and initiative—being assertive means being able to effectively communicate your needs and emotions and achieve the results you desire while also being empathetic about the needs and desires of others. Someone who is assertive is still able to create and maintain positive working relationships.

Self-esteem and self-confidence improve

Greater contributions to team performance

When each member of a team is confident that their team members will communicate with positive feedback when the project is going well and with constructive feedback when improvements are needed, better team performance is the result. Assertiveness helps you make sure there are positive lines of communication in your team and that each member, including you, is contributing to the overall success.

Stress management skills improve

When you are assertive, you feel confident in expressing your concerns and contributing to resolving problems or issues. You also feel empowered to respectfully and calmly cope with interpersonal issues as they arise. All of this contributes to minimizing stress and creating a healthier, more positive work environment for everyone.

The Benefits of Being Assertive

Being assertive allows you to communicate your wants and needs more authoritatively, while remaining fair and empathetic. It can also help you to become more self-confident, and even improve your mental health. [1]

  • Make great managers. They get things done by treating people with fairness and respect, and are treated by others the same way in return. This means that they are often well-liked and seen as leaders that people want to work with. [2]
  • Negotiate successful “win-win” solutions. They are able to recognize the value of their opponent’s position and can quickly find common ground with them.
  • Are better doers and problem solvers. They feel empowered to do whatever it takes to find the best solution to the problems that they encounter.
  • Are less anxious and stressed. They are self-assured and don’t feel threatened or victimized when things don’t go as planned or as expected. [3]
  • Have greater job satisfaction. They feel confident to say “yes” to the person and “no” to the task , and maintain boundaries.

How to Be Assertive

It’s not always easy to become more assertive, but it is possible. So, if your disposition or workplace tends to be more passive or aggressive than assertive, then it’s a good idea to work on the following areas to help you to get the balance right:

1. Value Yourself and Your Rights

This self-belief is the basis of self-confidence and assertive behavior. It will help you to recognize that you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, give you the confidence to stick up for your rights and protect your boundaries , and to remain true to yourself, your wants and your needs.

While self-confidence is an important aspect of assertiveness, it’s crucial that you make sure that it doesn’t develop into a sense of self-importance. Your rights, thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires are just as important as everyone else’s, but not more important than anyone else’s.

2. Voice Your Needs and Wants Confidently

Don’t wait for someone else to recognize what you need. You might wait forever! Take the initiative and start to identify the things that you want now. Then, set goals so that you can achieve them.

Once you’ve done this, you can tell your boss or your colleague exactly what it is that you need from them to help you to achieve these goals in a clear and confident way. And don’t forget to stick to your guns. Even if what you want isn’t possible right now, ask (politely) whether you can revisit your request in six months time.

Find ways to make requests that avoid sacrificing others’ needs. Remember, you want people to help you, and asking for things in an overly aggressive or pushy way is likely to put them off doing this and may even damage your relationship.

3. Acknowledge That You Can’t Control Other People’s Behavior

Don’t make the mistake of accepting responsibility for how people react to your assertiveness. If they, for example, act angry or resentful toward you, try to avoid reacting to them in the same way.

Remember that you can only control yourself and your own behavior, so do your best to stay calm and measured if things get tense. As long as you are being respectful and not violating someone else’s needs, then you have the right to say or do what you want.

Benefits of being assertive at work

You improve your self-esteem

Being assertive and sticking to your beliefs makes it easier to gain an understanding of who you are and the value that you have. In other words, it makes you feel empowered and more self-assured. This benefit of assertiveness is especially important if you’re aiming to advance to a leadership role. Typically, assertive employees make better leaders because they can delegate tasks and manage teams while showing empathy and respecting other people’s boundaries.

You contribute more to the group

When you’re assertive at work, you’re not afraid to disagree with someone’s opinion if you think there’s a better solution to a problem. Openly and confidently sharing your ideas can increase your productivity and allows you to contribute more to the group. This is because when you become confident about the value that you have to offer and feel comfortable expressing your honest thoughts, you may unlock your full potential and creativity.

You manage stress easier

When you’re assertive, you feel confident in expressing your concerns and contributing to resolving problems at work. Thanks to your assertiveness, you can calmly take care of interpersonal issues when they arise because you’re not afraid of respectfully and tactfully confronting someone. All of this contributes to creating a healthier, more positive work environment and helps you better manage stress.

Additional tips for improving assertiveness

Take your time. To some people, being assertive at work comes naturally, and others may require more time to learn how to voice their needs. Be patient about your progress, and be sure to reward yourself every once in a while to maintain motivation.

Talk to someone about it. Learning new skills and investing in your growth may be a dynamic and challenging process. Having someone to talk to about your concerns who’d support you unconditionally can help you quickly adapt to new situations and mindsets.

Stay positive. Assertiveness at work is all about achieving your professional goals and asking for the things you want while creating a positive environment. When speaking up, consider using positive language that encourages others to succeed.


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