Assertive communication has become increasingly important over the past decade. Despite the fact that in the last one or two years, work for many does not involve physical proximity to colleagues, the quality of social interactions and maintaining relationships still determines how we feel at work. This affects our performance and efficiency, and thus indirectly the functioning of the entire company. So what does assertiveness mean in terms of workplace behaviour?
Assertiveness can be best described as a form of communication and behavior in which I can represent myself while also taking into account the interests of the other party. To what extent we can be assertive in the workplace is partly up to us, but not exclusively. Social rules, upbringing and the values and rules that apply in the work organization to a large extent determine how employees can cooperate. That is, organizational culture has a significant impact on the assertiveness of employees, as if they do not feel safe in their workplace, they will not dare to openly and confidently communicate their needs and observations. Assertiveness in the workplace can therefore be interpreted in the context of organizational culture. In this article, we will look at some aspects that contribute to the development of an assertive organizational culture and individual assertiveness.
Assertiveness on an Individual and Organizational Level
On an individual level, assertiveness means that we are able to take into account both our own and the other party's interests - and be able to communicate this effectively. We don't want to change the other party, but rather listen to them with understanding and take their point of view into account. For this, we need skills that can be learned and developed, such as self-assertion, self-knowledge and understanding attention in order to be able to listen to the other party as well.
How can the skills necessary for assertiveness be developed?
Self-assertion is essentially a communication style in which we communicate 'I-messages' to the other party, telling them how we evaluate the problem, what we feel and think, and what we think would be the best solution. So we don't talk about the other person, but about our own point of view. Empathic listening is at least as important: the essence of this is to really pay attention to the other person. This can be seen in the fact that we repeat the other person's message in our own words, summarize it - because this will let them know that we were listening. Finally, self-knowledge is an important part of assertiveness, because with it we can decide what kind of reaction would be appropriate in a given situation. Because it is not always possible or advisable to assert our own interests. Sometimes it is more effective to listen and be heard by the other party. Assertive communication can be practiced 'live' in the workplace, but developing self-knowledge and practicing communication techniques with a psychologist can also help a lot in being able to communicate authentically in our workplace.
Assertiveness at the Organizational Level
In order for employees within an organization to be able to communicate assertively, certain conditions must be met by the workplace.
1. Role of the Leaders
If the leaders are able to listen to the employees and respond appropriately to their needs, communication, then they have already taken a big step towards creating an assertive atmosphere at the organizational level.
2. Prevention of workplace bullying
The emergence of an assertive culture is greatly hindered if the leaders do not take a firm stance against workplace bullying - since in a hostile environment open and honest communication cannot work.
3. Proper Handling of Negative Emotions and Criticism
It often happens that a conversation with the leader, or even a colleague, becomes uncomfortable. However, it is important that employees feel that they can express themselves if they disagree with something or want something different, even if there are more difficult situations. Negative emotions can also provide important information, which, if expressed, can have a positive effect on further work.
Benefits for both sides
If both the leaders and the employees are able to communicate assertively, then a work environment of peace and security will be created, in which both worries and doubts as well as positives can be expressed freely. Assertive communication improves performance and efficiency, thus making both employees and leaders more motivated. Assertive employees are more independent, make decisions more boldly and accept criticism better. If it is important for the management to ensure the psychological safety, commitment and cooperation of the employees, then the development of assertiveness at a corporate level can be one of the important steps on the way to achieving this.