Assertiveness in the Workplace: Benefits and When to Use It

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 8 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Assertiveness is an important skill that can help you to confidently express yourself in different situations, such as the workplace or during personal interactions with others. Using the right amount can help you qualify for a promotion, negotiate a higher salary and build better relationships with colleagues. It can benefit you to learn how to develop this skill and employ it in the workplace, which can help advance your career. In this article, we define what assertiveness is, highlight its importance and share the different situations where you can use it to your advantage.

What is assertiveness in the workplace?

Assertiveness is an emotional state where individuals feel comfortable expressing themselves authentically while considering their listeners' perspectives and opinions. For instance, employees may be assertive when they choose to defend their ideas in a meeting or negotiate their salary with human resources. While they're considerate of others' opinions, they're still able to speak and represent their intentions confidently. It's a crucial skill in the workplace as it enables you to speak up for yourself in a manner that's respectful to others and professionally appropriate.

Assertive individuals can accomplish their goals and satisfy their own interests without compromising others or appearing too forceful in the process. It helps them remain tactful in handling conflicts while also providing honest feedback and opinions. There are several defining characteristics of being assertive, such as:

  • Clear communication: Assertive individuals speak clearly when they express their opinions or communicate instructions to others. This helps them appear confident and decisive in challenging situations.

  • Calm demeanour: Assertive individuals can share their honest thoughts while being able to control their emotions and exude a calm exterior. They can manage difficult situations and maintain civil discussions even when offering contrarian viewpoints.

  • Actively listen: Actively listening to other perspectives allows productive conversations to take place in the workplace. Paying attention shows that you respect someone else's input and encourages them to share honest feedback.

  • Use facts: Assertiveness involves speaking confidently and using facts to substantiate your point of view. This allows you to focus on the topic and communicate your feedback clearly, which can save time and help you achieve your goals.

  • Honest dialogue: Assertive communicators are honest individuals who can express their feelings and opinions truthfully. They can engage in honest and respectful discussions and effectively communicate their concerns with others.

Related: Importance of Good Communication at Work (Plus Tips)

Benefits of being assertive in the workplace

It's important that you learn the benefits of being assertive in the workplace. It can be a valuable trait in different professional situations. Here are some of its key advantages:

Increased job satisfaction

Being assertive can help employees to state their opinions respectfully. They feel more assured that their voices get heard and represented in the workplace. It helps to promote honest relationships and interactions within the organisation, which keeps employees motivated and engaged in their tasks and duties.

Better control over work

It helps employees set healthy boundaries when interacting with their colleagues in the workplace. They may respectfully decline additional responsibilities outside of their current capacity by being assertive and honest about the challenges. Assertive employees can choose to prioritise their personal well-being without compromising their work quality. This creates a healthy work-life balance that reduces stress and helps improve productivity in the organisation.

Improved self-esteem

Being assertive and steadfast in your convictions allows you to understand better who you are and improve your self-esteem. This gives you a sense of empowerment and increases your confidence, which is important if you aim to secure a leadership position in the organisation. Assertive leaders are empathetic individuals who can manage teams efficiently and assign work while respecting employees' boundaries. As you understand the value you bring to the organisation, you also feel better about yourself and can confidently express yourself and improve your work performance.

Greater contributions to team performance

Better team performance results from team members having the confidence that they can communicate honest feedback and provide constructive input to help the team improve. Assertiveness ensures that the team maintains open lines of communication and that everyone actively contributes to the team's success. When you practise it at work, you're not reluctant to withhold your opinions or express your disagreement with someone's viewpoint if you believe there's a better way to solve the issue.

You feel included when you can share your thoughts confidently, which allows you to demonstrate your value to the team. This may further provide you with the opportunity to showcase your skills and develop yourself professionally, which can help you become a valued member of the team and organisation.

Better stress management

It's empowering as it helps you to feel comfortable voicing your concerns and be proactive in finding solutions to challenges or problems. Additionally, you can confidently handle upcoming interpersonal conflicts with respect and composure. This minimises stressful situations and creates a healthier and happier work environment. You feel comfortable working with your team members and colleagues and don't stress about communicating with one another during difficult situations.

When to use assertive communication

It's important to assess when to use assertive communication as it can affect relationships and performance in the workplace. Typically, you can gauge each situation beforehand to check if it's appropriate to engage in assertive communication and make your point in a mutually respectful manner. Here are some scenarios when assertive communication might be more useful:

Turning down requests from others

Assertive individuals are able to politely turn down requests from others that they're not comfortable with. This can occur in the workplace when you decline additional duties like overtime work because of your schedule and personal commitments. This involves understanding your work capacity and ability to meet deadlines on time. If you determine that taking on more tasks can affect the quality of your work or potentially cause you to miss deadlines, it may be necessary to assert your opinion and respectfully decline.

Related: A Guide to Handling a Workplace Bully: Definition, Types and Examples

Asking for feedback

Assertive people often ask others for feedback since it helps them hone their talents and produce better work. Constructive criticism from individuals around you can help improve your capacity to produce quality work. You can practise being assertive and consult senior colleagues or experienced mentors to assess your work and share their opinions on areas to improve. This helps you become more receptive to feedback, which increases your confidence and work performance.

Demonstrate confidence

Being assertive is also useful for demonstrating confidence in different situations at the workplace. It can involve expressing your opinions, desires and standards openly to others, which reflects confidence in your own skills and abilities. Take the initiative to request your managers for resources that you require to perform your tasks and job. Then, be assertive when setting goals and informing your team of what you hope to accomplish. Being communicative about your goals and the things you aim to achieve can help increase others' confidence in your abilities.

Related: 10 Important Social Skills to Have (Definition and Examples)

Respond to compliments and criticism

You may use assertiveness to respond to compliments and criticism properly without emotionally overreacting. Even if you disagree with any comments, being assertive helps you become confident enough to accept both positive and negative feedback. As an assertive individual, you acknowledge that everyone is entitled to their opinions. While these thoughts and opinions may differ from yours, being assertive shows that you exercise the right to stay true to your convictions and beliefs.

Escalate or de-escalate conversations

You might consider being assertive to escalate or de-escalate conversations. For example, if you observe coworkers or colleagues acting aggressively or growing frustrated over the conversation, then you can practise assertiveness to minimise conflict and help set them at ease. Alternatively, you may be more firm if you observe that others aren't responsive to your efforts at dialogue. It allows you to deliver your message and get others' attention while still maintaining your composure throughout the conversation.

Related: 14 Examples on How to Start a Conversation in the Workplace

Resolve conflicts or issues

Being assertive can be useful for reaching a compromise without violating your morals or self-respect. It allows each party to be forthcoming about their circumstances and helps the other consider the difficulties or challenges they might face in meeting their requests. For instance, if a team member is suddenly unable to meet due to work, you can both be assertive and propose an alternative time. This allows each side to still deliver on their work commitments while honouring the purpose of the meeting. Neither side is defensive or anxious about their situation, which allows for a swift and amicable resolution.

Related: What Is Conflict Resolution? (With Methods and Examples)

Asking for a raise

Due to the sensitive nature of this request, you may find it beneficial to be firm when asking your employer for a raise or promotion. It allows you to calmly and objectively state your reasons to substantiate your request. Being assertive helps you assure your manager or supervisor that you're committed to the role while explaining how your work responsibilities and performance might warrant an increase in salary. It ensures you remain professional and clearly communicate your value to the organisation.

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