Assertive Administrative Assistant giving a presentation

Be Your Own Advocate: Mastering the Art of Assertive Professionalism

Do you identify as shy, meek, or timid in the workplace? Have you struggled to find your voice and use it, when appropriate? Do you allow others to walk all over you? These are questions many professionals answer with a “yes”, particularly women. It can be daunting to find your feet as a professional in the administrative industry. We often work with big, dominating personalities and that can serve to make us feel smaller or like it’s safer to shrink down rather than extend ourselves. For a long time, I have advocated for our industry to embrace a more assertive presence, feeling confident and empowered enough to speak up and stand up.

First, let’s address some misconceptions about assertive behavior. Often, we may associate assertive behavior in the workplace as a negative trait and interpret it as aggressive or offensive. Let me be clear: Being a bully or running over other people just because you can isn’t assertive behavior. I think someone who is assertive is able to confidently express what they think, feel, and believe. They take initiative in the workplace to help resolve conflicts, solve problems, and present their thoughts and ideas in impactful and meaningful ways. Being assertive is a balance between strength and wisdom. Assertive professionals stand up for their rights and also respect others’ rights. They advocate for themselves. In this week’s blog, we’ll explore the attributes of being more assertive in the workplace.

The Benefits Of Being Assertive

When a professional employs more assertive behavior, they will begin to recognize many ancillary benefits that will serve to make their working lives more balanced and empowering. These benefits can help to change how you view your career and daily working life. I’ve seen many assistants who have embraced a more assertive presence realize in time that they are happier and enjoying their career more than ever before. I call that a positive shift through a behavior change! The benefits of being more assertive can include:

  • Reduced levels of stress and anxiety
  • A feeling of empowerment and control
  • Increased self-esteem
  • More confidence
  • More pride in your work
  • More inner peace
  • Higher levels of productivity
  • Accelerated career trajectory
  • The ability to cultivate more work allies
  • The ability to reach resolutions in difficult situations
  • Less time wasted worrying
  • The ability to choose what situations you want to address

Tuning the dial

Mastering meaningful assertive skills will mean that you learn when and where to be assertive and how assertive you need to be in particular situations. As is the case with most things, you don’t always need to be at a 10! You can increase the odds of having your needs met through assertive actions more so than by being passive or flat-out aggressive. There are three distinct levels of assertive behavior:

  1. Low: Assertion through empathy. When you utilize a low level of assertiveness, you may use traits like empathy to express to someone else that you recognize their viewpoint and feelings. Don’t underestimate the power of this level. This level offers an ability to connect with other people in powerful ways. When your colleagues see how in tune you are and how you are able to articulate what you see in them, you will gain more trust and respect. You will become someone others seek out.
  2. Medium: Assertion through language. A medium level of assertion usually looks like a professional using specific language when they speak. Rather than only using “you” language, an assistant who uses a medium level of assertion utilizes much more “I” language. This offers the opportunity for them to both stand up for themselves when they need to while still often retaining the goodwill of the person they are standing up to. Words matter! Be thoughtful and observant about the kind of language you use when you interact professionally.
  3. High: Assertion through strength. There are some situations in the workplace that simply call for a high level of assertion. This can be the most uncomfortable level for many professionals to reach. However, you will most certainly encounter instances where you need to employ a high level of firmness. These instances typically arise when a co-worker or leader continues to be rude to you, violate your rights, ignores your requests, or is otherwise disrespectful to you. This level represents the highest level of assertiveness you will ever need to “turn the dial” to.

Choosing when to assert yourself and picking what situations require more assertive behavior is critical. My best advice is to take a step back before you react. Stop and take time to weigh the pros and cons of a situation before you react to it. Think of what your expected outcome is. Always start with the end in mind. What do you want to see happen? What is a positive resolution? Work backwards from there. Next, evaluate how assertive communication would/could create positive results. Use this formula to help you decide when and where to be assertive. If you decide assertive behavior is necessary, be sure to clearly communicate your needs or desires. Use direct, tactful language. If you use this approach, you’ll start to realize the results you expect happen more often than not.

A More Assertive You

If you’re ready to explore and develop a more assertive persona at work, Office Dynamics can help. We developed a huge library of resources called the Success Store that focuses on helping executive assistants master all the key functions required in their role, become strategic partners with their leaders, and reach incredible levels of professional success. The Success Store includes a massive library consisting of books, certification courses, eBooks, live virtual training, and on-demand training that can help assistants level up and reach new heights in their careers. But we don’t stop there. The Office Dynamics menu of services covers every single element an administrative assistant needs to continue their journey towards becoming a star. You’ll find a vast array of training options, both in-person and virtual, that will help you grow in your career. We’re proud to be the lions of the administrative training industry and feel our deep experience and expertise are vital pieces to our own success. We love helping assistants grow. Click here to learn more!


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