At times, it may be important to exude assertiveness when working on a project with multiple team members.

How and when project managers should use assertive behaviour


Leaders work with all kinds of individuals, from those wary of speaking their minds to those who aren’t afraid to tell you what they really think.

If you’ve ever found yourself in a project management role, there’s a good chance a team member has challenged a key decision of yours. While there’s nothing wrong with expressing a concern or providing insight, there are times when an individual’s criticism can delay initiatives, eventually putting a project behind schedule.

What are the key traits? 

Looking a team member directly in the eye, speaking with confidence and supporting a positive atmosphere are three ways project leaders can use assertiveness, according to the Australian Department of Health. The organisation also recommended employing behaviours such as:

  • Being up-front about the underlying issue at hand.
  • Avoiding an argument or inciting a contest.
  • Preventing the conversation from digressing to irrelevant problems.

How can you practise assertive behaviour? 

Project managers and other leaders who are struggling to adopt these traits should consider participating in role-playing scenarios.

One example given by the Department of Health advises workers to play individual parts within a potentially contentious scenario. This provides each participant with a solid idea of how instigators feel when faced with assertive personalities.

Think ‘assertive’ not ‘aggressive’ 

Take another look at what the Department of Health defines as assertive behaviour. It emphasises that a person wishing to exude assertiveness should avoid being argumentative and use “openhanded gestures”.

These mannerisms aren’t the same as a project manager who is trying to forcefully subdue a team member, but one who is considerate of the greater situation as well as the worker’s role.

More often than not, aggression simply breeds more aggression, which can create a conflict that may be hard to settle. It’s an approach that all leaders should strive to take when faced with scenarios that could escalate to unnecessary problems.

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