Employees, Are You Assertive Enough?

Sheena Stemler All, Career Tips Leave a Comment

Did you know that assertiveness is a good quality for an employee to possess? Without it, no one can thrive in the workplace. Assertiveness is a characteristic sometimes looked down upon, but that’s only because it’s easy to confuse with aggressiveness. Aggressive employees are pushy, hard to work with, and use intimidation to influence others. Conversely, assertive employees are confident, tackle problems maturely but head-on, and stand up for what they believe in. Are you assertive, aggressive, or a mix between the two?

The Benefits of Being an Assertive Employee

Being assertive in the workplace comes with a host of benefits. For example, an assertive worker is generally respected by others and often chosen first for promotions. This type of person usually experiences less anxiety in general. As a result, he or she may be more physically and mentally healthy than a passive individual.

Case Study Proves Assertiveness Training Works

A researcher named Audrey Korsgaard noticed the negative effects of passivity in the workplace and decided to do a formal study on it. Each day she spent an hour training half of the employees of a notable company. The article Employee Assertiveness and Manager Performance says, …”the assertive behaviors she trained the employees to perform included succinct comments that stated one’s own position in a confident manner that did not devalue the message. She taught active listening techniques such as paraphrasing and asking questions for clarification, and she trained them to use assertive nonverbal behaviors such as eye contact and an involved body posture (leaning forward toward the rater).” The article goes on to explain that two specific results came of the training. The employees trained in assertiveness…


1) Reported a greater level of trust in their managers, although managers were not trained in any way during the study.

2) Expressed a more positive attitude.


Clearly, being more assertive is good for both employer and employee.

How to Become More Assertive at Work

It’s not always easy to be assertive at work, especially when you have intimidating managers and peers on your team. However, being assertive is a skill that can be learned. The Mayo Clinic staff suggests the following tips for those wanting to grow in assertiveness:

  • Use “I” statements – It can be so tempting to take a passive approach to communication, not wanting to assume responsibility for our requests and suggestions. However, “Using ‘I’ statements lets others know what you’re thinking without sounding accusatory. For instance, say, ‘I disagree,’ rather than, ‘You’re wrong.’”


  • Practice saying no – Saying no can be a challenge, but it is vital that employees learn to do it. You will get the best results—and it will be easier to do—if you say no politely but quickly. Keep any explanations for your answer succinct.


  • Take baby steps – It’s unrealistic to expect yourself to go from passive to assertive quickly. However, you can ensure the process by taking small steps toward assertiveness each day. “At first, practice your new skills in situations that are low-risk. For instance, try out your assertiveness on a partner or friend before tackling a difficult situation at work. Evaluate yourself afterward and tweak your approach as necessary.”


Are you an assertive employee? If not, what change will you make to facilitate growth in this area?

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