A new college graduate reported for work on the first day and looked forward to meeting with her boss. She asked if she could speak first, and proceeded to inform the boss that she would not be working on Fridays and would expect to have new office furniture of her choosing. She also let it be known that any criticism of her work would be viewed as harassment, since she was schooled in all the latest methods and practices.
The boss sat silent, which the new grad interpreted as agreement. But then he stood up and said, “I’m not sure who you talked to about this, or why you think you have that kind of authority on your first –and possibly last—day here, but the answers are no, no and no. And while I admire your assertiveness, you might want to work on your people skills.”
Assertiveness can help you express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view, but it can also intimidate and scare others. You don’t want to be viewed as a bully or arrogant. Finding the right amount of assertiveness is the key because assertiveness is not always seen as a positive trait.
Being assertive means being self-confident, firm, positive, decisive and empathic all rolled into one. Studies show that assertive people have better self-esteem, reduced mental health issues and stress, have healthier and more reciprocal relationships and just have better overall satisfaction with their lives.
Simply put, assertive people get ahead but you must know the territory. Some companies and geographic areas value more assertiveness, while others prefer a more persuasive and quiet approach.
I’ve found that seeking feedback from colleagues is the best course on how to proceed and become more comfortable in speaking up. Another tactic is assessing your own behavior if you are honest and truthful. Are you fearful of asking or stating what you want?
Assertiveness will help you build positive relationships at work. And assertiveness, like most constructive traits, can be learned. Here are some practical tools that can help you take control of your career:
The new grad in the first story could have used this advice – for this job or finding her next one.
Mackay’s Moral: Standing up for yourself isn’t about changing the other person. It’s about honoring your self-worth.
- By Harvey Mackay