Being an Assertive Manager

There are many of us who aren’t assertive by nature, but we’ve all seen and commented about managers who let others “walk all over them”. It’s not necessary to be a bully to get one’s point across to these types of employees, and not necessary to terminate them either. Rather, it takes an assertive approach to making them understand who’s in charge and what the consequences are for poor behaviour or under-performance. Here are a few pointers that may make life easier for both parties:

First, remain calm; showing excitement or hostility will simply escalate the situation. Second, qualify whether the employee is being difficult due to being aggressive, passive or assertive.Aggression is simply one who doesn’t budge on an issue and likes being hard on people. They’re difficult when they like to place roadblocks to productivity. These types will not take action to resolve a situation and aren’t typically confrontational. The passive person is usually noticed due to their inactions. Don’t confuse this though with someone who simply made a mistake.

Third, do respect others’ rights and look for compromise if it’s appropriate. If you want others to listen to you, you better have listened to them, even if you disagree with them. Sometimes being an assertive employee is fine, if they  stick to the facts and don’t let a situation deteriorate into a shouting match or retaliation.

There are different types of assertive statements that can be used in different situations:

Factual; offer a straightforward response that makes your thoughts very clear with no misunderstandings.

For example, “I need you to be at the meeting tomorrow by 9AM” leaves no room for misunderstandings.

Expressive; showing your negative feelings on a specific situation, without becoming emotional, e.g. “I get annoyed when you tell my staff what you want done; in the future, I’d like you to check with me and I’ll delegate the tasks to the appropriate person.”

Empathetic; “I know you’re swamped with customer service issues, but I just need five minutes with you to go over this sales proposal.”

Responsive; finding out what the other person’s thoughts on a situation are, e.g “what do you think our chances of winning this piece of business are?”

Differing; “We do expect weekly sales call reports, but yours have been monthly; we do need them weekly to track our sales statistics.”

Understanding the difference between being assertive and confrontation can, in many cases lead to better morale, productivity and make you a respected leader in your organization.

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