While I have no problem being what some people call a “go-getter,” I understand that not everyone operates the same way. There can arise situations in the workplace where we just don’t feel comfortable speaking up—whether because our personality doesn’t mix well with that of our managers, bosses, and coworkers, because of the working environment, or because we’re just not naturally assertive.
Regardless of the reason, feeling stifled or silenced in the workplace can cause career stagnation. You may find that others see it as a sign of weakness or even laziness. You may get passed over for greater responsibilities and job advancement.
You may also find that others take advantage of a kind and passive nature and use it to pass off their work, causing you to take blame or work harder than you ought to have to.
Regardless, there comes a time when all of us in the professional arena just have to learn how to be assertive at work.
5 Tips on Asserting Yourself at Work
1) Know your worth.
One of the biggest obstacles in being assertive is simply not knowing what you’re worth. If you are undervaluing your contributions in the workplace, you likely won’t think that your speaking up is worthwhile. You won’t have the confidence in yourself or your work to speak up, whether it is in contributing to a group or in asking for a raise or promotion.
Whatever the situation, you have to be aware of your worth. Look at your contributions: where have you succeeded in the workplace? Have you been a valuable team player? Remember, this is not about self-importance, or seeing yourself as more important than another, but having confidence in your role and value to your organization.
2) Recognize what’s needed.
Different situations call for different responses. If you’re seeking to be assertive and in a position of leadership, it’s valuable to know how to read people. A creative, friendly team likely needs you to assert yourself through contributions, conversations, and listening. On the other hand, a driven team is going to be more motivated if you take the reins on setting and holding them to deadlines, orchestrating plans, and asserting yourself as a vital piece of the puzzle.
3) Fight for everyone’s best interests.
There is a big difference between assertive and aggressive. Assertive people are fighting for everyone’s best interests, while aggressive people are fighting for selfish interests. Asserting yourself effectively involves the right motivation. It can’t be all about you! While in many ways it is about addressing your needs and concerns, asserting yourself never demands that other people have their needs sacrificed.
Effective assertion doesn’t come with raised voices or clenched fists, but with confidence and poise.
4) Talk one-on-one.
Being assertive in the workplace doesn't always take place in boardrooms and in front of crowds. It is most effective one-on-one, where you can make an impact on the people who matter most. If you have an issue with a single person, it is far better to pull them aside for a private discussion where you can confidently and calmly talk to them about what they have done and how it has affected you, the job, or the group. Not only is this a more respectful option, but you can usually come out of it with a stronger relationship and understanding of the other person.
5) Use definitive language.
One of the easiest and most instant ways to become more assertive is to simply start using more definitive language. Instead of “maybe,” use “yes” or “no.” Make sure you commit to things. Don’t start sentences with “I think.” Instead, be sure. This is a subtle shift, but you are imbuing yourself with more confidence and it is a small way to assert yourself in your speech.
Being more assertive doesn't happen overnight. It takes practice to perfect. Find small opportunities to assert yourself and build confidence. As you do, you'll find that others will gain confidence in you as well.
Before you know it, you will find yourself meeting the personal and professional goals that you desire.
What strategies do you use to effectively assert yourself in the workplace? Share your insights in the comments.