Have you ever found yourself dialing it back at work to avoid seeming pushy, aggressive, or overly assertive? Or maybe asserting yourself feels uncomfortable or unnatural. If you've ever taken the Big Five Personality Test you probably have a good idea whether your individual personality leans more towards assertiveness or agreeableness. Whatever your natural personality tendencies are, chances are finding a level of combination that promotes your own professional goals without frustrating those around you will be good for your career.
However, finding the perfect combination might be challenging. To simplify the process and discover how to appropriately assert yourself at work, consider the following advice.
Know Your Personality
Before deciding anything about your behavior at work, it is best to know what your core personality traits are. A personality test is the simplest way to measure specific personality traits. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or NEO Big Five Personality Inventory are both good assessments that are often used in the workplace and easy to interpret. Free or short versions are usually available through different resources. Knowing your basic personality traits will help guide your workplace interactions and will indicate whether you might need to increase or decrease assertive behavior at work.
Take Into Account Those Around You
Remember, you're not the only one at work with a personality. Your boss, co-workers, and others all have personality traits that dictate their own levels of assertiveness or agreeableness in the workplace. Make a quick list of the people who are important or who you interact with the most and decide how naturally assertive or agreeable each person is. Understanding the level of assertiveness that you might expect from people who you interact with every day will help you choose the best level of assertiveness for yourself in the workplace. A workplace full of highly assertive co-workers will require more assertive behavior, but a work environment filled with agreeable workers means that you may have to decrease your assertiveness.
Be Clear and Kind
If you're naturally agreeable it might be difficult to assert yourself. Conversely, if you value getting the job done on your terms and in your style, you're likely assertive to a fault. To find the middle ground try to keep your interactions and actions at work as clear and straightforward as possible. Remember that conversations are two-way and allow others to give input while still driving your point home. Agreeable people are less likely to confront a problem and will prefer to circle a topic, but a direct conversation is best. You don't have to cave into an opposing point of view, but be clear about why you don't agree without engaging in demeaning behavior.
As important as verbal interaction is body language when exploring the right balance of assertiveness while at work. When pitching an idea, sharing in a meeting, or discussing a project over lunch, maintain constant eye contact, speak clearly, and avoid overly casual language. Aim for a confident demeanor, especially if assertiveness does not come naturally to you. If you are naturally assertive, remember to know your audience and be prepared to take on a friendlier attitude if your body language seems to distance those around you.
Make Changes When Necessary
Finally, keep in mind that once you determine an appropriate level of assertiveness at work, the need to intermittently evaluate your assertive behavior does not end. Every promotion, change in personnel, or group project, is a good time to examine your personal assertiveness in the workplace. The right mix of assertiveness and agreeable behavior will change your career; people will see you as a leader, trust your opinion, and know that you're the person to go to for clear feedback.
If interested in learning more about this and related topics, visit the Career Advice section of our blog.
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