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How to Know When to be Assertive at Work

Maybe you’ve got the assertive communication down to a T, but now, how do you know when to use it? 

Not every workplace situation or encounter needs assertive behaviours, but here’s some examples of times where it’s beneficial and when its not.  

Two people talking about how and when to be assertive at work

What is Meant by Assertive Communication and Behaviour? 

Assertive behaviour and communication is a non-confrontational and effective way of expressing one’s feelings, needs, and desires while respecting and valuing others.  

Effective assertiveness means goals are achieved without unnecessary disruption, increased communication in the workplace, and improved relationships between colleagues can create a greater positive and healthy environment. 

Assertiveness is the golden ticket to any situation or encounter, but sometimes it isn’t always needed.  

But, let’s start with… 

3 Examples of Effective Assertive Communication 

Assertive communication and behaviours in the workplace can be highly effective, but only if used right. Here’s 3 examples of using effective assertive communication… 

1. Team motivation  

Whether morale is lacking or inspiration is running low, using assertive behaviour and communication is a great way to get the team back on the right track, boost passion for the organisation and increase morale.  

Screaming at your team to “get motivated” is not the way to do this and will result in opposite behaviour. Instead, give everyone the chance to contribute and express their opinions or ideas.  

Here are a couple of examples of how to put this into action… 

  • Be encouraging and open to new ideas and never shut an employee’s idea down 
  • Allow your team to take control and responsibility for projects, giving them the freedom to be creative and understand that you trust them 

Don't know how assertive you are? Our quick-fire quiz will tell you how assertive you really are in the workplace in just one minute. What are you waiting for? 

2. Keeping employees in line 

Have you noticed some employees turning up late, handing in poor quality work, or showing a lack of respect to others? 

If so, the best possible approach to deal with this is to be assertive, not aggressive or passive. 

Here are some pointers… 

  • Talk one-to-one with employees causing issues 
  • Openly discuss their behaviour and how it’s impacting others  
  • Give them a chance to speak  
  • Work together to resolve the issues  
  • If they’re not seeing where you’re going with your points, schedule weekly meetings to make sure they stay focused and on track with goals.  

3. Conflict resolution  

Whether you’re working in the office seven days a week or you’re in a hybrid working situation, there’s no denying that we spend a lot of time with our colleagues. Along the line, some employees may show signs of disagreement, confusion, or even anger in the workplace. Although this is normal, it’s how you deal with it that’s important. 

By using assertive behaviour as a leader, you’ll be able to control the situation before it evolves into something worse. You must hear from all employees involved to discover if anyone is using inappropriate workplace behaviour and develop the best possible outcome. 

Shy or call yourself an introvert? Here’s four techniques that prove you don’t have to be an extrovert to be assertive.  

3 Examples Where Assertiveness Communication is Ineffective 

Assertiveness is a great skill to have, not just for managers and leaders, but for any employees, junior or senior. But make sure you understand what is meant by ineffective assertive communication – passive or aggressive behaviour or tone of voice that results in further dispute or disruption. 

Here’s three examples that demonstrate times where being assertive doesn’t help or make sense… 

1. When you know the other person will respond negatively or passively 

Passive behaviour consists of indirect aggressive behaviour that means something different from what that person is verbally expressing. Passive-aggressive individuals focus on meeting other people’s needs and desires so much so that they build up anger and resentment for that person for being open and honest with their needs. 

Passive behaviour moves unwanted emotional build-up or tension, but it can have heavy consequences when used in the workplace. Other passive-aggressive behaviours include a lack of motivation, disinterest in meeting organisational or team goals, and tense interactions or decreased collaboration between employees. 

2. When there’s high tensions or anger 

Most of the time, the use of anger results in more anger and upset, especially in a workplace environment where it is likely to be unprofessional and inappropriate.  

Sometimes assertive behaviour is overlapped by aggression, so here’s some key points to help you understand the difference… 

  • Anger is emotionally charged 
  • Assertive uses active listening  
  • Anger lacks consideration and empathy for others 
  • Assertive is honest and open in conversations 
  • Anger insults others to “win” 

The outcomes of negative and angry communication include, quickly escalating situations that could be dealt with in a better way and negative or passive interactions from others around the situation. 

Instead of using aggression to deal with issues or everyday communication, try to find the balance between expressing your needs and listening or respecting other people’s.  

3. When other people lack self-regulation to handle assertive communication 

Usually, people who are passive or defensive in social situations, often become offended or even more frustrated when someone uses assertive behaviour or communication to diffuse or calm the situation.  

If a person doesn’t realise their behaviour is inappropriate, leave them to calm down as the more focused they are on their own opinions and feelings, your opinion and reasonings won’t be heard. 

Now You Know When to be Assertive, Let’s Boost it  

Maybe you want to become a more assertive leader, or you want to speak up in meetings or to senior staff about your ideas. Our Confident Communication and Assertiveness training course is the best way to gain top skills and techniques to get your voice heard in the most effective and impactful way. Book your place now to avoid missing out.