On the Job

Are you assertive or aggressive?

B-e-a-g-g-r-e-s-s-i-v-e.  Be aggressive.

It’s long been a chant for sports fans and cheerleaders from stadium stands and basketball bleachers, but is there a place for aggression in the workplace? Experts say n-o.

“Mutual respect and shared goals keep work environments healthy and positive” said Karen Bradbury, assistant vice president in Talent Strategies at Colonial Life. “Employees should always be able to share their input and ideas, and aggression can keep some quiet and get others riled up.”

The goal, then, is to be assertive. According to Psychology Today, it’s easy to get the two confused. But the clear differentiators are really less about what you are doing and more about your attitude and motives. That’s life, isn’t it?

Being assertive alludes to strength with respect. It’s the ability to make your own opinion known and be persuasive, but without sacrificing poise. This type of communication can also boost your self-esteem and earn others’ respect, according to the Mayo Clinic. Aggression, on the other hand, may very well end in you getting your way, but it will not bode well for having long-term influence. Aggression can be perceived as anger, conceit and just plain rude, which aren’t great impressions to leave on your coworkers, clients or even friends.

So, if you want to avoid being the office bully, here are a few tips to be more assertive without being aggressive.

  1. Honestly assess yourself, then commit to being vocal and assertive rather than aggressive or passive aggressive, that form of conflict that moonlights as courtesy or being shy but is really just annoying.
  2. Avoid blaming by using “I” statements, which keep the focus on you and what’s happening instead of accusations about another person.
  3. If you lean toward being passive and not speaking up, start small by being assertive in low-risk situations where you’re talking to a trusted friend.
  4. Keep your emotions in check by thinking ahead about what you’re going to say and trying not to start a conversation when you’re already upset.
  5. Be mindful of body language. Do you scowl at people when they talk to you or share an idea? Do you get loud when you’re giving your opinion? Do you have furrowed brows? If so, see steps one through four because you might be aggressive!
  6. If you’re on the receiving side of aggression from a coworker, know that feeling socially threatened can reduce your ability to think clearly and problem solve, according to Karen. So, for the sake of your own health and productivity, be aware of your emotions and make sure you are giving your best. If the aggression is a continued problem, talk to your Human Resources department.
Tags: | | | |