Assertiveness is what exactly?


Young woman with metaphorical strong arms drawn in representing assertiveness

What is assertiveness?

I have mentioned assertiveness quite a few times in recent articles. What is it and do you even need it?

Assertiveness is one of those things everyone has likely heard about but no-one can easily define. We are often told to be more assertive but what exactly does this mean? What are we supposed to do more of? How assertive are we right now? What are other people doing about it? It matters so let’s define it.

Assertiveness matters

Your level of assertiveness and comfort when being assertive can have a big effect on your overall management and leadership style. This stuff is important. It can affect the whole of your life if your assertiveness is too low.

There are many on-line self-evaluation questionnaires available. If you want to find out your current level of assertiveness or your preferred interpersonal or influencing style then feel free to try them out. As with most things in life, there can be good or bad and free or paid for; take your pick.

The influencing styles

There are four main classifications of influencing style of which assertiveness is but one:

  • Assertive
  • Passive
  • Hostile-aggressive
  • Manipulative-aggressive (aka passive-aggressive)

Passive is a type characterised by an “I must lose and you must win” attitude.

Hostile aggressive is an influencing style characterised by an “I must win and you must lose” mentality.

The last influencing style listed is termed manipulative-aggressive or passive-aggressive. This type is characterised by an “I must lose so you must lose” mindset.

All of these styles are on a continuum. This means we all exhibit the different traits in different degrees at various times in our lives. Categories are useful but in the real world people are not so easily defined. Over the long-term it is likely we will favour one style over the others. If you are not sure, ask your trusted colleagues. They will then be able to tell you what style they think you prefer and exhibit most. It may shock you.

What do we normally do?

By and large, most of us choose to adopt the passive stance whenever possible, especially at work. You know the old “anything for a quiet life” and “why rock the boat” approach. Does the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” sound familiar?

If you are going to be a better manager then you need to be as assertive as possible. You need to know what assertiveness is so I had better start by defining it.

Assertiveness defined

Assertiveness means completely clarity. It means openness about how one feels and what one needs. The assertive know how to achieve it fairly. This definition is agreeable for our purposes. Assertiveness  requires assertive communication skills, assertive body language and confidence. It requires the ability to communicate calmly without attacking or yielding unnecessarily to another person.

Assertive people know they have rights. Assertive people expect certain things. They expect fair things in their work. These rights and expectations come with a caveat. They come with a responsibility to accord other people the same rights and expectations. So this idea of assertiveness adheres to a win-win approach to life. Adopting an “I get what I want and you get what you want” approach then means everyone is happy.

Sounds simple so why are we not all doing more of it?

So what can you do about it?

We should be, because learning to be more assertive will help us to express our thoughts and feelings freely, speak up and defend ourselves, know and stand up for our rights, negotiate reasonably and control our emotions effectively during periods of interpersonal conflict. It also applies when we have to manage difficult people.

Assertively managing difficult personality types at work can be something of a nightmare for many line managers and supervisors. Some managers seem to have the amazing knack of effectively and confidently with the difficult personality types they encounter. If they can do it why can’t you?

Get the book and get more assertiveness into your life

To get the low-down on assertively and effectively managing these and many more difficult personality types why not check out one of my latest books “Assertively Managing Difficult People” by Andrew D. Pope.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

You might also like to read:

Hostile-Aggressive People At Work

Difficult People At Work – Part 2

Difficult People At Work – Part 3

Doormats Are An Ultra-Passive Problem

Doormat picture with words The Doormat on it to represent the passive doormatsThe Doormats

They are the constant pushover, the too eager to pleaser and the avoider of conflict at all costs. They are the passive doormats of the organisation. I’m sure we’ve all encountered at least one such passive person in our lives. So how can these people ever be a problem to anyone? They won’t say boo to a goose. Think again.

This article takes a brief look at one difficult personality type you may either meet in work or have to manage in work if they are part of your team. This is one type you might not think is even a problem at first.

The ultra-passive Doormats or the people who just can’t say no.

They reject no request in an effort to please anyone and everyone who asks them to do something. Does this make them somehow super-productive? Does this make them dream employees? No way!

The Doormats are normally so over-subscribed and over-committed they end up pleasing no one. Doormats essentially and effectively educate those around them to take advantage of them because they are so passive.

What goes around comes around

Co-workers are often expected to take up any slack in order to keep the organisation, department or team in good standing. The grumbling will start and you will have to manage the fallout. This is all hugely ironic because the situation is often the direct result of the same co-workers taking advantage of The Doormats in the first place; all leading to the current overwork meltdown situation.

If you have a Doormat for a boss then are you in for a super-rough ride. They will take on too many tasks for the team, most of which cannot possibly be achieved, then to add insult to injury they will be too weak to defend the team against complaints about poor performance. Nightmare!

Passive people people problems go on and on

There are numerous other problems waiting in the wings. Ultra-passive Doormats can be a bully magnets. They sometimes take on small but mission critical tasks without telling anyone until they drop the ball and the smelly stuff hits the rotating cooler. They may also quietly filter critical information, up or down, often with the best of intentions.

Good intentions pave the road to hell.

All this happens because the ultra-passive Doormats do not like conflict and do not want to upset anyone.

How do you deal with the passive people problem?

Assertively managing difficult personality types at work can be something of a nightmare for many line managers and supervisors. Some managers seem to have the amazing knack of effectively and confidently with the difficult personality types they encounter. If they can do it why can’t you?

To get the low-down on assertively and effectively managing these and many more difficult personality types why not check out one of my latest books “Assertively Managing Difficult People” by me Andrew D. Pope

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

You might also like the following related articles:

Passive-Aggressive People At Work

Hostile-Aggressive People At Work

Assertiveness Is What Exactly?

Passive-Aggressive People At Work

.two passive-aggressive people facing opposite directions

Passive-aggressive people at work

This article takes a brief look at three passive-aggressive (aka manipulative-aggressive) personality types you may either meet in work or have to manage in work if they are part of your team.

Passive-aggressive type 1 – The Countdown Kid

The Countdown Kid is a passive-aggressive type who is likely very near to retirement. However, they are not looking to go out gracefully with some class and dignity. No, they are looking to work their ticket. They will play the organisational system for all it is worth because they have an agenda.

At best they might be doing the barest minimum they can do to get by knowing you can apparently do little about it.

At worst they might be seeking to try and force the organisation into paying them redundancy, an early retirement deal or some other thing they feel is available and which will yield them more than mere retirement. They do not care who they have to annoy or disrupt to get it.

They are a common feature of many modern, especially large, organisations. In large part the organisations themselves have created the problems themselves. There are many opportunities for these people to play the system. Opportunities arise because of overly-complex HR policies and poorly thought out historically created employment packages. Add to this new rules and regulations in HR and employment law and it is clear to see the fertile ground such people confidently operate in.

Passive-aggressive type 2 – The Guilt Tripper

The Guilt Tripper is the person who never lets people forget. They never let them forget the bad treatment they believe they have had at the hands of bosses and workmates. They never let facts get in the way of a good story either. Although their moaning may have some small kernel of truth they will happily exaggerate and embellish. Take their stories with a big pinch of salt.

The Guilt Tripper blames everyone but themselves for their perceived misfortunes. They never miss an opportunity to tell people either because misery loves company. They will badger anyone unfortunate enough or daft enough to listen of their woe-filled tales.

If you do not give them a particular task or project they want they will moan on and on about how you “did the dirty on them” or “stitched them up” and generally held them back. Colleagues will get the same treatment if they are felt to have contributed to this heinous act.

They never seem to worry they might be wrong. They don’t acknowledge the reality of the situation because that would rock their world. Failure to succeed due to a simple lack of merit or some other valid reason holds no meaning for them. No, it was an unfair act directed specifically and callously at them and no one else.

Like other passive-aggressive types they are adept at recognising and pushing the emotional buttons of others. Guilt is a strong emotional button for most of us. They look for people who might either believe or support them. They also seek people who might easily cave in to their bullying passive-aggressive tactics. If you can smell the acrid stench of burning martyr it will likely be The Guilt Tripper.

Passive-aggressive type 3 – The Control Freak

The Control Freak is a perfectionist.  As such they are unwilling to and often almost incapable of delegating work to others. Even if they are capable of it they are often unwilling to do it. If The Control Freak does manage to delegate, or is forced to delegate, it makes little difference. They will simply try to micro-manage to such an extent they may as well have done it themselves anyway.

Because they seek so much control they will actively manipulate people and situations to gain that control. They are definitely passive-aggressive in nature and behaviour.

The Control Freak is consistently controlling with everyone they encounter. They cannot help themselves and will reveal their tendency despite any efforts to keep it hidden. The Control Freak is therefore relatively easy to identify. Their behaviour can be extremely domineering at times. The Control Freak could well have been placed in the hostile-aggressive section of my book.

Having The Control Freak on your team can be a motivational sink hole. Having The Control Freak as your boss can be even worse. Either way, morale can plummet.

What should you do about them?

The Countdown Kid, The Guilt Tripper and The Control Freak. Make no mistake, if these three are not properly controlled or dealt with, you will struggle. These passive-aggressive personality types and others like them, are dangerous. They are dangerous to your morale and mental well-being.  They are dangerous to the morale and mental well-being of your staff, teams and your departments.

Both the hostile-aggressive personalities, mentioned in the previous article, and the passive-aggressive personalities mentioned in this article, are bullies. Take a zero-tolerance approach to bullying. Assertively stamp it out. Either turn it around, neutralise it or eliminate it entirely. If you don’t then the toxic types, who use bullying as a weapon, will take control of your working world.

Assertively managing difficult personality types at work can be something of a nightmare for many line managers and supervisors. Some managers seem to have the amazing knack of effectively and confidently with the difficult personality types they encounter. If they can do it why can’t you?

To get the low-down on assertively and effectively managing these and many more difficult personality types why not check out one of my latest books “Assertively Managing Difficult People” by me Andrew D. Pope.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

You might also enjoy these related articles:

Hostile-Aggressive People At Work

Doormats Are An Ultra-Passive Problem

Assertiveness Is What Exactly?

Hostile-Aggressive People at Work

Hostile-aggressive man in office

The Hostile-Aggressive Worker

Hostile-aggressive people can be the bane of a manager’s existence. This article takes a brief look at three hostile-aggressive personality types you may either meet in work or have to manage in work if they are part of your team.

The Big Bad Bully

The Big Bad Bully uses various forms of hostile-aggressive behaviour and tactics in order to intimidate others into compliance or allegiance. They might use anger, open or covert threats of failure or reprisal, blackmail, ridicule, guilt and/or shame. They will essentially use whatever tactic they can to get what they want. The Big Bad Bully has no worries about arguing or embarrassing others to achieve their ends.

The Angry Diva

The Angry Diva is someone who wants to be the centre of attention all the time and always get what they want. The word Diva implies a female bias but it is just an expression. Men are just as likely to be Angry Divas as women. Whatever the gender, in their world it is all about them and woe betide anyone who thinks or says differently. Many organisations have people like this at different levels because dealing with them is hard. If you are really unfortunate they are sometimes even in charge.

The Know It All

The Know It All. There is nothing you or anyone else can tell The Know It All because, in their opinion they have seen it all and done it all. There is no room for personal growth in their world but plenty of scope for it in other people. The Know It All believes they can do or say no wrong but they will be extremely efficient and keen to point out where you and everyone else went wrong of course.

Make no mistake, if not properly controlled or dealt with, The Big Bad Bully, The Angry Diva and The Know It All are dangerous to the morale and mental well-being of both you and the staff on your team or in your department.

What can you do about it?

Managing difficult personality types at work can be something of a nightmare for many line managers and supervisors. Much of this comes down to fear of conflict because of a lack of confidence. Some managers seem to have the amazing knack of effectively, assertively and confidently with the difficult personality types they encounter. If they can do it why can’t you?

To get the low-down on assertively and effectively managing these types of hostile-aggressive people and many more difficult personality types why not check out “Assertively Managing Difficult People” by Andrew D. Pope.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

You might also enjoy these related articles:

Passive-Aggressive People At Work

Assertiveness Is What Exactly?

Doormats Are An Ultra-Passive Problem