Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Are you assertive enough at work?

Well, I was recently part of a discussion with a group of friends from a variety of work background. We had someone from engineering, HR, recruitment, sales, consulting, among others. The topic discussed was about being assertive.

The question we shared among the group was: Are you assertive enough at work?

The question was directed more towards their life at work than in personal life. While the entire group started out saying we were assertive, the real truth emerged only after sometime into the discussion. As much as we wanted to debate, we really weren’t assertive enough in our work life!! The dude in engineering wasn’t assertive when he told he sure wasn’t going to meet the product release deadline. The sales guy wasn’t assertive enough to tell a No to his client’s demands, fearing he might lose them. The recruiter wasn’t assertive when it counted the most, in telling the hiring manager to take a decision with the existing bunch of candidates. That the grass wasn’t greener on the other side of the candidate field. HR often ended up quoting stuff from policies, rather than a firm ‘No’ to crazy requests from employees (fearing attrition!)

Another obvious question asked was, do we then really need to be assertive? Off course we should be assertive. Isn’t that obvious? Being assertive really isn’t about forcing an idea on someone, pushing so hard that it forms cracks in a client relationship, does not mean you hide behind a HR policy instead of answering the question openly. It’s about being confident and not giving up on yourself when you know the outcome of a certain activity. Being decisive in your ‘No’ with valid reasons. If you choose to be assertive, you have then are decided to speak firmly about how you feel about a situation. It’s a thin between aggressiveness and assertiveness, striking a balance is the tough part.

There’s a ton of information on the web, telling/asking/showing/advising us on how to be assertive? Just what are we doing with that information? From our discussions, it was clear that most of that info got thrown to the backburner in a never ending rush to deliver results, please unrelenting clients and hire the next-best candidate.

So is being assertive a personality trait or one that we learn on the job? If we agree that circumstances reveal a person, is it then really possible to teach someone to be assertive (thinking on the spot rather than after the event has occurred)?

That gets me to ask you: Are you assertive enough at work? How do you manage to stay that way? Do share your thoughts.