Lack of assertiveness in the workplace is a major contributor to poor performance, even though it is one of the skills that is regularly taught in negotiation training courses.
Unfortunately assertiveness has a bit of a bad rap. Within families and at school people are made to feel guilty for speaking up for what they want and need. We are actually taught to be non-assertive - to be passive.
Assertion often gets confused with and labelled as aggression. Don't make this mistake! Aggression is attacking and destructive, and the needs of the person being attacked are lost in the interaction.
Contrasted with this is passivity. Passive people lose sight of their own needs, and often times become resentful.
Assertiveness means that the individual respects, and cares for his/her own needs, along with the needs of the other party.
A lack of assertiveness in the workplace leads to many elephants wandering through your corridors. Huge, big elephants that people are pretending don't exist, yet everyone knows they are there. Your elephants are things that should have been said, but weren't. As well as things that were said that shouldn't have - and yet no one has the courage to call another person on their poor behavior - particularly if that person is more senior to them!
Do you work with an aggressive person and aren't sure how to handle him or her?
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Generally, nobody's talking about the elephants openly, but they are showing up in poor behaviors - e.g. work not being done on time or in sloppy manner, gossip, absenteeism, etc. These elephants are commonly known as resentment, frustration, anger, confusion, and so on.
Learning to have assertiveness in the workplace is ultimately freeing. It can stop you from being walked all over, or walking all over, others! It enables you to have conversations in truth. It enables people to address issues head on - respecting their own needs and the needs of others.
Quick question: Has someone done something recently that has ticked you off a little, yet you've said nothing to him or her? When I work with leaders in workshops I often ask this question: "Did you not give someone feedback in the last week, because you were concerned about how they may react?" In my very "scientific " study, I've discovered that more than 90% of people have not given appropriate feedback.
Over, and over again, the groups discover that the primary reason people don't give feedback is because they fear the reaction of the other person, and what that person might think and say about them.
Every single person in every single organization comes to work with his or her own agenda. Their agenda is to be loved and approved of. Sadly, most people don't realize that this yearning is what drives much of their behavior. It is this need for acceptance, that causes people to be unassertive and to not confront unwanted action (or inaction).
Discover the skills you need to hold conversations in truth and minimize the impact of agendas ... so you consistently lead with respect and pride ... "Influence Your Way To Success"
If you aren't ready to buy the book, adopting these simple steps will certainly set you along the path to having more assertiveness in the workplace (but to become a master influencer I highly recommend you read "Influence Your Way To Success")
1. Start With Respect
Respect for your needs, and respect for the other person. Care for them enough that you want to share with them some feedback, that may be stopping them from being as successful, as they could be. For example, you could say to the person: "I want to be a supportive person for you, so there's a matter I'd like to share with you, that could have an impact on your on-going success. Do you have a few minutes?"
Straight up you are showing the person that, it's because you care that you are sharing this with them. You are respecting them, by asking if now is a good time.
Obviously, you must be sincere when you say you are doing this 'because you care and you want to support them to their success'. If your agenda is all about you; (making sure this person 'gets it right' because you are scared their mistakes will reflect poorly on you, and you might be adversely impacted) weellll ... the other person will see straight through it, and the conversation will not go well. And, oh boy do I know that from personal experience.
Early in my career I was a leader who was more concerned about my own personal success, than that of the people I was leading - I was pretending as hard as I could, that I cared about them - but they saw straight through me and the results - as you can imagine - were generally less than spectacular! Or, put another way spectacularly poor. When I began to care for others success, as much as my own, it was transformational - both for me and them.
2. Share Just The Facts
No accusations, no judgments! "You're rude" - that's simply aggressive behavior. Instead simply state the exact behavior you witnessed. "In the meeting earlier today, when Mary was talking, you cut across her, before she had finished, and didn't acknowledge her point of view"
3. Be Open To Dialogue
Once you've shared the facts, then it is important to ask a question to get them talking, so you understand their point of view. "Can you help me to understand why you did this?" Be very careful with your tone of voice and the words that you use. It can be very easy to slip into a judging role.
4. Work Together To Agree On Future Actions
Either communicate consequences to the person of behaving in this way in the future. Or, work with the person to problem solve, how they may fix the problem for the future.
5. Agree On Follow-Up
Once you've worked through the issue, you should agree on what actions either/both of you need to take in the future. Even if it is as simple as getting together in a day or two - just to discuss any thoughts/emotions that have come up from this conversation.
Follow these simple steps and you will have more assertiveness in the workplace. Assertiveness that leads to respect, dignity, the needs of people being met and ultimately higher performance.
One place where many people need more assertiveness is in managing their boss. Broaden your capability to be assertive with your boss.
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