Assertiveness: definition and tips for developing it at work

Understand the concept of assertiveness

What does “assertiveness” mean?

Beware of misinterpretation: assertiveness does not come from the verb “server” (which has the noun “serf” as its root); no idea of ​​dominance in this concept. It actually comes from the English verb “to assert” meaning “to affirm” or “to assert oneself”. The original concept was named “assertiveness” which, in French, gives “affirmation de soi”, synonymous with assertiveness.

When was assertiveness conceptualized?

The term “assertiveness” appeared during the first half of the 20th century. The American psychologist, Andrew Salter, introduces it and gives the following definition: “ability to express oneself and to defend one’s rights without infringing on those of others”. This notion then spread to become the subject of books dedicated to its promotion during the second half of the 20th century. In France, Éric Schuler paved the way in 1992 with “How to assert yourself – daily assertiveness.”

How do you define assertiveness at work?

Initially, assertive behavior is not a work-oriented concept. For a long time he was content to talk about assertiveness in his personal life. Gold, assertiveness has become a real method developed in the office. It consists in displaying an assertive behavior at work, that is to say which is neither passive nor aggressive. For the employees of a company, it is a matter of gaining self-confidence and asserting themselves, while respecting their hierarchical superiors and their other collaborators. Employees have the right to make their needs and beliefs known without it being experienced as an attack by his co-workers.

What is assertive management?

From this assertiveness at work comes assertive management. For a head of department or any manager, initiating an assertive management allows employees to be less restrained, but more in productive affirmation, one that seeks compromise so that everyone is satisfied. The “win-win”, the balance, respectful communication is the basis of management through assertiveness. A method that can bear fruit, especially for well-being at work.

The benefits of assertive behavior

More transparency

Within a couple, a family or between friends, the unspoken and other lack of communication can be devastating for the sustainability of the relationship. At work, it’s the same. Being assertive allows you to express yourself, to give your opinion and therefore to work transparently. Imagine, for example, that an employee does not dare to say that his workload is too heavy. His hierarchical superiors continue to give him assignments and, the excess work not being expressed, the employee can cash in until he explodes or suffers from burnout. The fact that employees assert themselves therefore has the advantage of avoiding potential crises.

More reliability

Assertiveness at work also leads to strengthening the reliability of employees. Let’s go back to our illustration. The employee having too much work does not manage to carry out all the tasks entrusted to him correctly, which causes the dissatisfaction of his manager — who could have, knowingly, assigned the additional missions to other employees. Confidence in the employee is therefore degraded. If, on the other hand, the employee had been able to say no, his manager would have had the certainty that the subsequent acceptance of another mission was synonymous with correct execution within the time limits.

Less stress

Assertive management also aims to improve staff well-being. Our example indeed shows that a lack of assertiveness can be a source of suffering at work. Not knowing how to say no sometimes leads to accepting the unacceptable. Because the other collaborators are not aware of the suffering of a non-assertive employee, who hides his emotions. This causes stress for the person whose workload increases and it is increasingly difficult for them to cope. But all employees can also see their level of anxiety rise when the requested documents do not arrive on time, which puts them at odds with a client or upper hierarchy.

Solutions to develop your assertiveness at work

Some exercises to improve your assertiveness

To become an assertive person, work on oneself is necessary. The first practical exercise is to identify their behavior and reactions objectively. Personality tests can help you with this. Do you tend to remain reserved and then, like a pressure cooker, respond aggressively? If this is your case, these practical exercises will be useful to you. Determine your needs while respecting those of your colleagues. In each exchange, be aware of the way you interact and pay attention to what your interlocutors may express. Take the example of those who manage to assert themselves without hurting others. To gain confidence, sometimes you have to change your vocabulary. For example, replace “I must be able to carry out this mission” by “I can take charge of this mission”, or by “I cannot take care of it because…”. In addition, if you are led to express a criticism or disagreement, force yourself to do so in a constructive way by developing your point of view and remaining open to contrary opinions.

Other ways to be assertive

Practical exercises and tests are not always enough to develop assertiveness at work. In order to be accompanied and to benefit from the advice of behavioral experts, you can also use the services of a coach specialized in assertiveness and self-confidence. You will be guided and will be able to work more deeply on your difficulties in expressing yourself. However, coaching can be random. Note that there are also specific training courses dedicated to the development of assertiveness.

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