Assertive leadership

There can often be confusion between what behaviours are classified as assertive and what are just micro aggressions – or even blatant aggressions! For many people in the workplace, assertiveness doesn’t come naturally, and we can shy away from standing our ground for fear of upsetting another person, which can damage our own self-worth, and confidence in our skills.

Here we will discuss what assertiveness in the workplace means, and how we can help you to achieve it without offending people.

Picture this scene:

Gillian has planned a long weekend, taking Friday and Monday off, and has planned to finish work at 3pm on Thursday. At 2.30 her manager pops her head around the door and says, “can you get me a report on this month’s sales figures by Tuesday?”

Gillian knows that she won’t have enough time to finish the report before she’s planned to leave; she knows that her manager is expecting her to stay late or to complete the work over the weekend, getting it delivered on time. She is frustrated that she’s been asked at such short notice and that she’d have to work through some of her holiday.

There are several ways she can respond:

A: Gillian agrees, stays late, and doesn’t get to leave early enough to begin her holiday as planned, or takes the work with her and spends most of her break completing the report, making her angry and leaving her manager with the impression that Gillian can always be given short notice workloads.

B: Gillian gets angry, and refuses to do the work, telling her manager just how unfair she thinks this request is, and leaves on time in a bad mood, leaving her manager with equally ill feeling.

C: Gillian politely reminds her boss that she is on leave, and won’t have time to complete the report. She suggests either doing it on her return, or asking another member of the team to take it on.

Option A is a poor choice for all involved – Gillian’s leave is impacted, her mental health and wellbeing are strained, and her boss has become a bully, taking advantage of her kind nature and commitment to the job, knowing that Gillian won’t say anything about being pushed around. In this scenario, the boss is the aggressor.

Option B makes Gillian the aggressor – friction and anger are terribly damaging to the culture of any workplace, and will cause ongoing issues for both parties, who will respond with this enhanced emotional state to any contact for some time.

Option C is the assertive response: Gillian isn’t rude, her boss isn’t positioned as the aggressor, and neither respond with emotion or dominance over the other; a request was made, and the reasons it was refused were fair and firmly explained, with alternative options recommended for the work.

You see, in order to stand your ground, you don’t need to react with anger, to respond emotionally, or to let it impact working relationships when you disagree over something.

Instead, simply asserting your position, firmly but politely laying out the situation, and offering alternative solutions to an issue, shows that you can’t be taken advantage of, but that you are still willing to provide solutions to any issues, and can still be relied upon.

If assertive behaviours are difficult for you, we can help. Assertiveness training is one of the personal development courses we have been running successfully for clients across both the public and private sectors, and the impact of the training can help you or your workforce to communicate better, to develop their confidence and abilities to perform in the workplace, and to succeed.

Explore our catalogue of programmes, or contact us today to discuss our courses, and which would be the best match for you.