How Assertiveness Skills Can Benefit You In The Workplace – SACAP
Management & Leadership

How assertiveness skills can benefit you in the workplace

Feb 04, 2019
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The rewards of assertiveness training are plentiful, especially at work. Learn to say no and set boundaries, your career will thank you for it.

Key takeaways

  • Being assertive is a necessary skill in all work environments.
  • People generally tend to follow one of four behaviour types: passive, passive aggressive, aggressive and assertive.
  • Assertiveness training can transform both your work and home life.
  • Being assertive takes practice, start small at first.

It doesn’t matter where or in what industry you work in, certain things are guaranteed. Every office or team is a melting pot of people who tend to behave in different ways: the pushy manager, the nosy co-worker, the bossy colleague, the slacker, the glory seeker, the list is endless. So how do we deal with so many different styles of interacting? How do we tell Suzie from accounts to mind her own business or Steve from IT to stop helping himself to your lunch? The answer is quite simple. Be assertive. Assertiveness is the one skill that can boost your self-esteem and positively impact your career.

In a typical work environment, your colleagues will more than likely fall into one of the following behavioural types:

Passive or submissive

Simon from HR goes out of his way to avoid conflict and, as a result, he’s not great at resolving work problems. He is over agreeable and super-eager to please. To some Simon is a peacekeeper, someone who simply doesn’t rock the boat or get worked up over the small stuff. In reality, Simon leaves the office every evening seething and full of resentment. He feels used and worthless.


Joan from Finance really doesn’t like her boss. Truth be told her boss is a prize jerk, but instead of standing up to him and respectfully telling him how she feels, Joan says nothing. She says she is all fine. All is good in Joan’s work world but her actions tell a different story. Joan is frequently late, she takes a lot of sick leave, especially when things are busy at the office. When Joan is at work, she spends a great deal of time absent-mindedly scrolling through Facebook.


Mark from Operations is generally avoided. He responds to most situations in a hostile, obnoxious and rude manner. Everyone always knows how Mark feels and most of them wish they didn’t.


Kelly from Sales is well-liked by her colleagues. She’s known as someone who speaks her mind, but always in a respectful manner. She is a good listener and an excellent communicator. Kelly is confident and knows her worth. She is next in line for a promotion.

Kelly is clearly climbing the corporate ladder and yet she remains respected and well-liked. She manages this because she is assertive. She takes control of her environment, but still listens to others. If you find yourself identifying less with Kelly and more with Joan, Mark or Simon it might be time to sign up for some assertiveness training. Here are six ways in which it will benefit you in the work place.

1. It earns you respect

When being assertive you maintain your boundaries while at the same time being respectful of the boundaries of others. When you learn to be assertive, it won’t be easy for others to take advantage of you and you won’t be easily intimidated by bossy people (your manager or colleagues). Respecting your colleagues and being open and honest with them will lead to mutually respectful working relationship.

2. Assertiveness sets boundaries

Assertive people are seldom taken advantage of at work. This is because their assertive behaviour inadvertently helps them to set firm boundaries. Firm boundaries communicate to your colleagues just how far they can push you and what you will and won’t tolerate. Good boundaries create a work environment based on respect, tolerance and honesty.

3. Pick your battles

One key to being successfully assertive is to know when to pick your battles. Not every situation requires a reaction and sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice a small victory in order to secure a big win. Assertiveness training can help you identify when to speak and when to hold your tongue.

4. Respond versus react

We have all experienced those moments when something happens, and we react immediately. Instead of stopping to think we shoot straight from the hip, often with disastrous results. Assertiveness training teaches one to respond to situations rather than react. Simply put, assertiveness training helps you to pause and then act. To think about your options and possible consequences.

5. Ask for what you want

Assertiveness training will teach you how to ask for what you want. Whether it is something small like an extra day’s leave or something much bigger like a raise, learning to be assertive will show you how to ask and when to ask. Assertiveness training will assist you with those difficult conversations, the ones you may have avoided or mishandled in the past. If you’re seen as someone who can handle a tricky conversation with grace and ease, this will definitely help you to move forward in your career.

6. Say no

It’s amazing that two little letters can cause such distress. If you struggle to say no, you are not alone. When you learn to be assertive however, you will learn to say no, and this can be life changing, especially at work. Often, our inability to say no leads to burnout, depression or an inability to meet important deadlines.

Learning to be assertive will transform your relationships both at home and at work. When doing assertiveness training it is important to remember that just the training is not enough. Your new skills will take continuous practice in order for them to become second nature. It’s highly likely that, at first, you will feel terribly anxious and clumsy when asserting yourself. Remember to start small. It’s not necessary to take on the CEO on day one, but maybe someone pushes in front of you at the store, that’s your chance. Be kind to yourself, learning to be assertive is not easy, but well worth the effort.

Interested in learning more about coaching? SACAP offers a range of courses, including part-time and full-time as well as distance learning options. For more information, enquire now.

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