Assertiveness is an important skill to nurture within any workplace. Being assertive means expressing your needs and your point of view in a clear and respectful manner, whilst also respecting the rights and beliefs of others in the workplace.
For managers and business owners, encouraging assertiveness in your team can lead to a number of benefits for your employees and your organisation as a whole. Here we’ll look at what assertiveness means, how to be assertive at work, and the many advantages it can bring.
What is Assertiveness?
Assertiveness is a mode of communication that allows a person to stand up for their viewpoints or bring up issues in a calm and respectful manner. It avoids passive, aggressive or passive aggressive behaviour. Instead, an assertive person interacts honestly and directly with others, declaring their needs and setting boundaries when necessary.
Assertive body language involves keeping an open posture, maintaining comfortable eye contact, and using facial expressions and gestures appropriately. The tone of voice should be calm, firm and reasonable. This helps the message be heard and creates an atmosphere of mutual respect.
How Can You Be Assertive at Work?
There are various techniques people can use to communicate in a more assertive way at work:
Clearly Declaring Needs
An assertive person is comfortable stating their needs directly. For example, “I would like some help completing this report by Thursday” or “I need Tuesday afternoons free for an important weekly meeting.” This makes expectations clear and allows colleagues to understand what is required.
Using “I” statements
Saying “I think…” or “I would prefer…” expresses your viewpoint non-aggressively. This is more assertive than being self-deprecating with statements like “Don’t you think it would be better to…” Using “I” statements demonstrates confidence.
Setting clear boundaries against inappropriate behaviour or unreasonable requests protects against stress and burnout. For example, “I’m not comfortable with that approach” or “I can only take on one additional project at this time.” Making your boundaries known allows others clarity on what can be expected.
Using Active Verbs
Saying “I will have the report done by…” rather than “I should have the report done…” demonstrates confidence and assertiveness. Active verbs convey conviction.
Benefits of Assertiveness for Managers
Assertiveness skills allow managers to:
- Provide clear direction to their team
- Express concerns without belittling employees
- Give constructive feedback more effectively
- Delegate tasks more easily
- Say no to unreasonable requests
- Manage conflict situations confidently
- Set defined work objectives and goals
- Create an open communication culture
When managers develop assertiveness skills, it can lead to a range of benefits for their team and organisation.
Employees are likely to be more productive and perform better when expectations are clear, and communication is open. The overall work culture and atmosphere improves, as relationships between managers and employees become stronger, built on trust and mutual respect.
Unclear expectations, which often lead to stress, can also diminish and staff turnover is likely to decrease as employees feel more engaged in their roles.
Benefits of Assertiveness for Employees
Assertive employees are better able to:
- Ask for what they need (e.g. training, resources)
- Set clear work-life boundaries
- Decline unreasonable requests
- Give input on decisions that affect them
- Raise concerns directly but positively
- Request constructive feedback for growth
- Negotiate salaries, promotions and benefits
- Express ideas and opinions respectfully
When employees become more assertive, they reap a number of personal and professional benefits.
They are likely to feel more valued and engaged at work, as their needs are met, and their voices are heard. Assertiveness helps boost confidence and self-esteem. It also empowers employees to better manage stress.
Additionally, their career goals and advancement should become more achievable through clear communication and expression. Gaining the respect of colleagues through an assertive approach also leads to greater job satisfaction and motivation to take initiative proactively.
The Benefits of Assertiveness Training
Many organisations now offer assertiveness skills training to managers and employees. This can teach people how to communicate in a more direct, open way to improve teamwork, productivity and wellbeing. Training helps participants:
- Better understand different communication styles
- Use body language effectively
- Express themselves constructively
- Listen actively and empathetically
- Set priorities and avoid overcommitting
- Remain calm under pressure
- Provide positive feedback
- Resolve conflicts amicably
Role playing exercises are often used to practise asserting oneself in various work-based situations. This allows trainees to build their skills and confidence. Follow up coaching can also help reinforce new communication habits.
If you’re interested in implementing training for assertiveness within your business, consider getting in contact with the experts at Elliot Training. We run courses online, at business premises and at our own training centres across the UK.
As well as our Influencing, Persuading, and Assertiveness Skills Course, we teach assertiveness in our Relationship Management Course, among others. We can also create bespoke courses for businesses. Enquire today to find out how we can help.