5 tips to be more assertive at work
The big untold truth is that some level of assertiveness is necessary to make your voice heard, ensure that you get the salary raise you deserve or simply, that your work is respected and considered equal to others.
Assertiveness to me equals clarity of thought and communication. Here are my 5 top tips:
Perfectionism doesn't help
We girls put way too much pressure on ourselves...goodness, if men did the same, the world ( and corporate decks! ) would look much prettier and organised! However, this pressure is often a deterrent to progress and it puts massive strain on our nervous systems. I try to focus on getting the facts right, the core data and numbers crystal clear... the rest, sometimes, I have learned to let go.
Avoid second thoughts
Once something is done, it can't be undone. There is no use sitting in bed on a weekend obsessing about that typo in slide three of the Tuesday meeting. Trust me, no-one remembers it except you and nobody really cares. Avoid having second thoughts about your decisions, actions or words. Make sure that you act based on the best information available to you at the time and don't look back. Be coherent with your principles and consistent in your actions and never second guess yourself. And if you made a mistake, well, work on rectifying it.
Drop the waffle
Try to be direct and clear in your communications. For example, if you are asked a question you don't have answer to, simply say that you don't know but that you will check it and revert back by said hour.
I keep myself in check trying to avoid too many "feelings" words. For example instead of saying "I feel that this presentation should be changed" try "Shouldn't we change this presentation?" or "Based on my experience, this presentation should be changed". Keep your choice of communications short and sweet, less words will convey a clearer message and will be understood in a more memorable way.
Carry your voice, like singers who learn to sing with their diaphragm, work on projecting your voice in the room, this will help you be heard and it will ensure you are listened to.
Stick to your facts
I have personally anchored myself to facts throughout my career. You see, no-one can argue with facts, nobody can take away your achievements, numbers are never an opinion particularly if it's sales figures. As a woman working in the predominantly male digital tech environment and in senior commercial roles, I have worked hard to build a solid track record of revenue generation and tangible results. This has helped build my profile and my confidence. Whatever your scope of work is, make sure that you are working on building a strong foundation of results driven work. And when you're stuck in a difficult conversation, always refer back to it. For example "when I worked on x project, we hit our 10% revenue increase target by doing y, shall we try it?".
Disagreement is part of the game
Have you ever noticed how men argue? They have big blow outs, raise their voices in some occasions, state their facts, disagree openly. This helps them get disagreements out of their systems, voice their truths and find resolution. We are not so good at this. Personally, I struggle with this at home too, living with a very assertive partner has taught me some, however I am still programmed to suffer assertiveness in this department, rather than acting on it. I should follow my own advice here: it's ok to disagree with others, difference of opinion is part of life, it enriches our interactions and work. Voice your point of view without complex in simple and concise words and if you fall out with a colleague put it behind you as quickly as possible and re-engage with him or her to move on quickly. So instead of keeping quiet try saying: "I politely disagree with your view point, based on my experience this should be approached in the following way..." And please please drop the word "sorry" at the beginning of the sentence ! :-)
Forbes has a great article on this topic: 3 Effective Tips On How Women Can Be More Assertive In The Workplace.
And so does Refinery29 15 Workplace Skills Every Woman Should Master