“A work environment in which assertion is the norm will be one in which unnecessary and destructive interpersonal tensions are reduced to a minimum.”
Encourage Your Employees to Speak Up it is a fact that many individuals, for whatever reason, are not naturally assertive. They either fail to communicate their needs in a straightforward fashion, or do so in a way that is unhelpful to others. In conflict situations, they have a tendency to lose control, or alternatively, say nothing and swallow their feelings. Being assertive means standing up for oneself without unnecessarily offending others and helps create a positive and more effective workplace.
For Chinese employees working in multinational organizations, practicing assertiveness may be especially challenging as it means they must dare to speak out and express their individual thoughts and opinions when facing people in higher positions. A real-life example of this dynamic occurred while we were training the R&D managers in the Chinese office of a major US telecommunications company. Several managers expressed the wish to try new behaviors and challenge themselves to speak up in public. Coincidentally, a global director from the company’s US headquarters happened to be visiting China and a town hall meeting was scheduled.
The global director had reservations about meeting with the Chinese employees because previously they had been reluctant to express themselves. He had even decided not to mention the company’s new strategic plan at the meeting unless asked about it, as he did not expect they would offer any input or feedback. At the meeting, he was surprised to find the Chinese managers behaving assertively – part of their homework from the training. The global director was so impressed by the Chinese managers at this meeting that a year later he moved the company’s global research center to China.
Encouraging your employees to speak up is only the first step in assertiveness training. Since many issues in the workforce are caused by communication failures, it can be an important part of overall staff development.
A work environment in which assertion is the norm will be one in which unnecessary and destructive interpersonal tensions are reduced to a minimum. For this reason, many organizations now integrate assertiveness training into their mainstream management development programs. Behaving more assertively makes one more effective in one’s job. Assertion tends to breed assertion, so people are more likely to work with an assertive colleague, rather than against him/her. In turn, this makes it easier to get satisfactory outcomes. We believe assertiveness can benefit one’s personal effectiveness in many ways:
A Better Chance of Your Needs Being Met: If you behave more assertively, you state more clearly what your needs, wants, ideas and opinions are. This increases the chance that your needs will be met and your opinions taken into account. At the same time, assertion is not about ignoring or dismissing the needs of others; instead you encourage others to make their own needs known. When needs conflict, then we believe assertive behavior helps individuals find solutions that are acceptable to both people.
Greater Confidence: In some instances your needs may not be met. The important point here is that, should this happen, because you made your needs or views known, you are more likely to feel ‘okay’ about yourself and the situation. This increased confidence about yourself helps you to recognize and accept the strengths of those who work with you or for you, rather than being threatened by them.
Taking The Initiative: If you hope to influence the environment in which you work, it is important to take initiative. These initiatives may be small
— for example, putting forward an idea in a meeting, or large — such as changing the flow of work through your department. If you behave assertively you are not afraid of failure or making a mistake.
Energy Savings: When you are no longer preoccupied with not upsetting others or losing out, you will save yourself a lot of nervous energy, and experience a reduction in stress and tension associated with getting results. Decisions become less stressful because you will be less concerned with what people think and the fear of making a mistake. This allows you more time to work productively in other aspects of your job.