Speak up! The importance of assertiveness in the workplace29 Sep 2020
As a professional at any level of an organisation, it can sometimes be difficult to make sure your opinions are given full consideration. For some, it may simply be a matter of not being assertive enough in advocating for themselves.
As such, you need to realise that one of the most important skills in the workplace is knowing when to be assertive, but doing so without aggression. Being able to walk that line effectively also makes you a healthier, happier and more productive person. That, in turn, allows you to better manage stress and improve your self-esteem, confidence and mental health.
Whether you're an individual employee trying to give yourself more of a voice at work, or an HR director who sees the benefit of this skill for your entire workforce, the following tips will help you find success in fostering more assertive communication:
1) Think about your place at the office
For the most part, you probably know where you fit into your company's hierarchy and what that involvement means for your place in the decision-making process. GoodTherapy recommends that you should start examining this relationship to understand what you bring to the table, and what that value means for you. In reality, you may have more of a voice in your manager's mind than you think, and can use that to bring up issues or concerns you may have.
2) Know when you have a say
Along similar lines, it's important to know what your value is relative to a given situation. If you're expressing yourself about your role — such as if you want to get a promotion or raise, or simply take on more work to demonstrate value — doing so at a time when your manager might consider it inappropriate might not be the best idea. Instead, it's smarter to wait for your moment and weigh in when you are more certain you will be heard.
3) Build a consensus
If what you want to express your opinion about is not strictly pertinent to you, but rather your whole team, it becomes easier to be assertive as a group, The Muse advises. This kind of collective action will almost certainly carry more weight with a manager, and it can start with a simple, low-stakes conversation with a co-worker, rather than directly with your boss.
4) Don't make hard and fast demands
Being assertive is great. Being aggressive is not. Again, it's a slight distinction, but you need to know when you're going to be seen as "crossing a line." It's better to offer flexible solutions to things you perceive as problems, thinking up a number of options (either by yourself or with team members) so that you don't just highlight a problem and ask leadership to figure it out. A little bit of preparation and perhaps some practice for your pitch will go a long way toward making sure you're not only heard, but that your suggestions actually carry more weight.
5) Avoid hedging
Finally, when it comes to being assertive, it's important to use stronger language than might seem natural. Fast Company notes that phrases like, "sort of" or "somewhat" can take the edge off the urgency of your intended message. If you think something is a problem, you will come off as being much more confident if you say it's definitely a problem, rather than making it sound like something your organisation would be fine to continue.
For more help in fostering assertiveness and generally becoming a more productive member of a high-performing team, check out ICML's course offering on the subject and get in touch with us today to learn more. Whether you're already a team leader or you just want to play a bigger role in decision-making