Swimming with Sharks – Being Assertive at Workplace Swimming with Sharks – Being Assertive at Workplace
Not that your coworkers cannot become your friends. Of course they do - some of them at least… But let’s face it – it... Swimming with Sharks – Being Assertive at Workplace

This is part 6 of twelve articles for Assertive Communication Series.

Not that your coworkers cannot become your friends. Of course they do – some of them at least… But let’s face it – it may make it even harder to reject those files that are miraculously piling up on your desk once you begin spending Fridays after work with those who put them there. So, how do you reach a perfect balance between being an easy prey and being a Machiavellian bully, while nurturing friendships at work as well? It sounds like a challenge! Applying the art of assertiveness to your work relations may be the key skill you’ll need to conquer in order to reach fulfillment at your workplace, same as in your life.

The Assertive Winner

So why is assertiveness so important at work? Assertive people reach a win-win situation more easily, solve problems more efficiently, and maintain composure when a conflict of opinions arises – and these are all crucial aspects of every business. Assertive individuals are also more sure of themselves, but never arrogant. They resolve disagreements without drama, and with far less stress and needless tension. And finally, assertiveness comes hand-in-hand with higher self-respect and self-confidence, which enhances both interpersonal relationships at work, but also gives you a sense of joy and self-actualization.

Therefore, if you do invest your efforts into exercising an assertive manner of conduct and thinking, you might not have to get home from work like a drained cloth. On the contrary, you might discover that you still love your job once you stop cleaning everybody else’s mess! Because you do have the right to say: “No, I am sorry John, but I won’t be able to take the calls for you today”, remember? That is, if you are not John’s personal assistant whose job is to take Johns calls, of course.

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Now is the Time to Apply Everything You Know about Assertiveness!

In our previous articles, we talked about assertive rights, cognitive distortions, and assertive techniques, and now is the time to apply it all to one of the potentially most stressful situations each of us face – dealing with your bosses, coworkers and subordinates.

Here are some general guidelines for some of the typical work situations:

  • Be aware of your rights, while respecting those of others – You are an adult who works with other adults, so don’t fall into a game of apologizing to your boss for his own mistakes, or on the other hand, of being dismissive towards your intern, because “what does she know, she just got out of high school, for crying out loud!
  • Remember that everyone is responsible for one’s own behavior – Therefore, if your subordinate doesn’t finish the report by the deadline for the third time this month, first try and have a frank and respectful conversation with her and see if she faces some problems you could help resolve (not understanding the instructions, for example), or some personal issues that are distracting her from work. However, if the issue is just her being irresponsible, with rights come the consequences, so she will have to either step up, or face appropriate sanctions. However, you won’t be yelling at her how incompetent she is, nor will you be staying up until 4am writing the reports yourself, since your superior expects to see them.
  • Express yourself in an assertive way – This will take a little practice, but once you master the skill, you’ll have a new-found self-admiration and respect from your colleagues to enjoy! This means allowing yourself to feel frustrated or even livid, but always use assertive techniques to voice your emotions. Instead of listing all the shortcomings of your colleagues in a not-so-polite way, or rushing into a heart attack by bottling up all your anger, try this – explain your point of view, suggest a solution, and ask if everyone agrees with the proposed resolution: “Jenna, we agreed on you taking upon yourself to compose a project proposal, and I was supposed to work on the budget. You didn’t warn me that you will be a week late, so I was caught off-guard when Mr. White requested to see the completed form. This was really unpleasant to me. Could you please let me know the next time you’re unable to finish by the deadline, does that sound fair to you?”

Our work may be among the top three things that define us. And if we’re lucky, we’ll get to do what we enjoy, and what makes us develop our potentials. But it any case, our job usually consumes a third of our day. So, if we are to feel satisfied with life in general, growing a positive and pleasant work environment in which we are treated with dignity and treat others with respect is indispensable!

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Stanislava P. Jovanovic

Stanislava P. Jovanovic

Stanislava Puacova Jovanovic is a psychologist based in Czech Republic. She had worked with socially endangered groups for many years, mostly with children and young people. She is a certified peer educator and a peer life coach, with vast experience in organizing workshops, trainings, courses, seminars etc. She is also a certificated assertive communication trainer.