Be assertive at work

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Robert Maurer
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Be assertive at work

Last update: April 07, 2019

In the workplace you have to make use of different skills in order to improve motivation, productivity and harmony with colleagues. Be assertive at work, for example, it is extremely important.

Assertiveness is often confused with other attitudes, such as aggression or hostility. In reality they are completely different, as the former is mainly based on respect. It means knowing and defending one's rights as an individual and citizen, without harming others. As we will see, assertiveness is also the polar opposite of passivity, which corresponds instead to the tendency to leave the decision in the hands of others.



Being assertive at work brings important benefits to both the worker and the company. This is why it is important to know how to develop and put this skill into practice.

How to be assertive at work

Defend your work

Sometimes superiors tend to take credit for their employees' work, causing great frustration for those who do not see their merits recognized.

Imagine that you have worked extensively on a key relationship for your company, but that at the time of the exposure to the customer your supervisor does not mention you or even call you to the presentation.

Being assertive at work pushes us not to remain silent and to show our discomfort to the superior. Once the meeting has ended, for example, we can go talk to him and ask him to give the right value to our work. We must not get angry or use a defiant tone, but express our demotivation, the result of an unrecognized right.

Give your opinion calmly, but without hesitation

A meeting of the whole department you work for is called. It is a key meeting: important decisions will be made for the future that affect you directly. For this, the opinion of all employees of the plan is sought. In such a situation, most workers take two types of attitude: aggressive or passive.



Let's imagine that the core of the debate is this: do you think the company should increase the budget dedicated to your department? How would you reply?

  • Aggression: “Absolutely yes. We don't even have money for the coffee machine. "
  • Passivity: “It does the same. Right now he doesn't interest me. "
  • Assertiveness: “From last year to today there have been some big negative changes due to the limited budget available. It would be advisable to increase it again in order to adequately carry out the duties of the department. "

The first and second responses generate tension. The third suggests that being assertive at work is a social skill that allows you to communicate more effectively with others. Through assertiveness we express our needs by understanding the possible reticence of those who listen to us and facilitating an intermediate solution if our requests cannot be satisfied.

Valuing yourself

If you are already able to give your opinion assertively, don't make a rookie mistake: devaluing your message. "I don't know if it will help ..."; “It's just an idea…”; "Maybe it's still early ..."; "It may seem nonsense ...".

Avoid these clarifications: they are not good allies, on the contrary. They denote a lack of security and low self-confidence. Furthermore, your opinions will hardly be accepted if you give the impression that you are the first to be unsure.

Subjective communication

Subjective communication implies the ability to manifest firsthand what one thinks or feels. It allows us to speak without blaming, judging, criticizing or seeking responsibility from others.


Here is an example. Given the results your company is achieving thanks to your effort and dedication, you think an increase is right. There are two ways to communicate this to the head of personnel: “I'd like to talk about my salary” or “we need to talk about my salary”.



The former is much less aggressive than the latter, which is more impersonal. As we see, a simple detail can increase the respect, naturalness and importance of what you are saying.

Be clear and concise

In order to be assertive at work, two aspects need to be clarified. On the one hand, the objectives to be achieved; on the other, the guideline of the message.

If you have your goals in mind, you can approach them gradually. Otherwise, putting this social skill into practice will be much more difficult and may even backfire. A very common mistake of people who try to be more assertive is not knowing how to say "no" to whatever proposal is made to them.. Deny yourself when something conflicts with your rights.


Also avoid dwelling on it. If you can say in one minute what you would say in five, so much the better. Too many turns of words will distract others and the speech will lose its importance.

According to McCrae and Costa's Big Five theory, assertiveness is encapsulated in the personality trait of extroversion. No one is assertive by nature, rather it is a social skill that can be trained; which requires effort and awareness.

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