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Assertiveness in the workplace: 3 common examples

Assertiveness is the key to a strong workplace. I believe it benefits everyone involved, from staff to team leaders and even the business as a whole. It creates trust and supports better management practices. Here are three examples of how you can use assertive behaviour in the workplace.

1) Managing a poorly performing team member

It took me a while to become an effective team leader. Understanding the best and most professional way to manage poorly performing staff only truly began to click once I took an assertiveness course. Suddenly, I realised I’d been too passive in my approach to handling one particular case.

This staff member had the potential to become a great asset to the team, but tended to let deadlines slide too much. I’d shifted the lines to try and support him, as the work he produced was of high quality. However, my leadership approach did not benefit him nor the team, as we experienced his time time management getting worse over time. After developing my assertiveness skills, I decided to change my approach.

Scheduling in a private meeting, I sat down to talk with him one on one to discuss his observed behaviours and how we can come to a solution. I started with a positive note by letting him know how I appreciated the standard he worked at. Then, I expressed that I also observed poor time management on his part, that I could no longer accept him missing deadlines and that I aim to work with him to solve this issue. Because of this open, forward-looking discussion, I found out part of the issue was he struggled to know how to manage and prioritise his time. We set up weekly one on one meetings in order to review his processes and I organised a team training session around time management skills to resolve this issue. In the weeks that followed, I observed that improved time management where he became more capable to meet our deadlines. This resulted in our whole team becoming more efficient with producing work ahead of schedule.

Approaching the situation assertively benefited not just me, but my team as a whole.

Communicating assertively allows you to discover and strengthen areas of weakness within your team, such as time management. Communicating assertively allows you to discover and strengthen areas of weakness within your team, such as time management.

2) Saying no to additional work

Most of us have encountered workload pressure before. Sometimes projects and jobs can pile up all at once. When your manager or co-worker approaches you for help of additional tasks, it can leave you at breaking point. Assertive behaviour, no matter your role, is a way you can effectively manage and communicate this issue, and avoid burning out.

Your manager or co-worker may not realise how much work you’ve currently got on. So, you can show your assertiveness by discussing your workload with them. Let them know in order to do your tasks well, you are unable to take on this additional task. You can also propose for them to decide which tasks needs to prioritised: the task(s) that you’ve been working on, or the new tasks that they want to hand over to you.

Using ‘I’ statements in this process allows you to make your statements and address issues in a respectful way. For example, ‘I understand you want me to take on this task, but I currently don’t have the capacity for it. I’m managing these X projects and if I took on this one as well I won’t be able to get to it till… I don’t want to risk rushing my work and have the quality go down. How would you like me to proceed?’

3) Being heard in a meeting

Communicating assertively ensures any ideas, concerns or queries you might have are heard and responded to. There is often a lot going on in a meeting. However, if you have a point to raise, it’s in the best interest of your organisation that you’re heard. You may bring up an issue which hasn’t been considered yet, or have an idea that could become a great project. Speaking up at appropriate moments in a respectful manner allows you to convey your viewpoint professionally, without stepping on anyone else’s toes or letting your comments go unheard.

As a team leader, it’s also an important part of assertive behaviour that you give your employees a chance to have their say. Open communication within your team allows it to become more cohesive and creates the space for more rounded and valuable conversations to occur. If someone is dominating a meeting, make sure you manage the situation so other team members get their say too.

Have you considered how improving the assertiveness and communication skills of your team could benefit your workplace? If you’d like to know more, reach out to the team at ICML today. We can help you provide training to your staff in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane.


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