Be Assertive at Work

If you are reading this article, I already know a thing or two about you. You are like myself. You never liked being the center of attention when you were a child. You preferred to play off on your own, never speaking in front of a class, you are a people pleaser who does not want to hurt anyone’s feelings and you do not require credit for everything. You are a pushover at work. You pick up everyone else’s slack and you do not complain- at least not to anyone at work. You do not get the benefits of your career, while others who do less than you reap the harvest. Am I right?

Well, do not make the mistake I made recently and let your boss and coworkers essentially bully you for two years, all the while bottling up tension, until finally one day you blow up and tell your boss what you really think about the situation. I no longer have that job. Where did I go wrong? In retrospect, I see every mistake I made from day one, and every mistake I can attribute to lack of assertiveness.

Lesson in Assertiveness # 1: If Your Job Titles are the Same, Your Duties are the Same

This was the biggest obstacle I faced at my last job. Even though I technically had the same position as most of my coworkers, because I was the new kid on the block, I had to do all of the stuff noone else wanted to do. You are going to have this when you first start a job until you are there for awhile, but eventually that is supposed to stop. However, if you allow it to continue, it will. Not only will it continue, but it will progress to the point where noone else is doing any of the work and you are doing it all.

Now, I’m not suggesting you refuse to do anything you don’t want to do as soon as you arrive on the scene, but after a few months, if your coworkers are leaving you with everything and not sharing in the task, tell them, “well, I think it’s your turn now.” That is an assertive way of saying that you don’t mind task sharing, but you are not going to carry everyone around in a basket, either. This situation got so out of hand at my place of employment that not only did everyone leave everything for me to do, they eventually got so used to it that they would throw a hissy fit if they even had to lift a finger for anything. I allowed them to walk over me so much that they expected, even demanded, I behave as a slave- even after two years. If I had been assertive near the beginning of my employment, the problem would not have progressed that far.

Lesson in Assertiveness# 2: If Your Job Titles are the Same, Your Priviledges are the Same

This lesson in assertiveness is similiar to # 1 because if you allow everyone to walk all over you, not only will you being sowing all of the seed, you won’t be reaping any harvests, either. Because I was timid and not assertive at my job, my employees treated me so inferior that they did not even want me to have any of the same priviledges as them. To be more specific, they could take scheduled breaks, but I got scoffed at when I wanted a break. They could take two hour long lunch breaks, but I had to grovel for a half an hour, while they stewed about me taking that. For starters, this was illegal. OSHA has workplace regulations that state that employees are to have predetermined breaks when working a certain amount of hours a day. These laws are in effect to protect the rights of workers who are denied basic priviledges such as this.

It does not matter what the priviledge is- vacations, breaks, etc. If your job titles are the same and your workloads are the same, your priviledges are the same. Period. You must be assertive and speak up over these issues, or else you will be miserable and resentful at work. There is nothing wrong with being assertive over something you are entitled to. It does not make you a jerk. It just means you have enough respect for yourself to demand being treated as an equal.

The basic moral of this story is, if you don’t speak up, you won’t get anywhere in your job. To be assertive means having integrity and commanding respect and equality. While it might seem profitable initially to be the do-all person at your job and never complain, you will eventually regret it. It is like the old saying, “when you give someone an inch, they’ll take a mile.” Commit yourself to being more assertive at your job. Know that you are an equal to your coworkers and you deserve the same duties and priviledges as others. Do not become a welcome mat at your job. Eventually you will assert yourself, but after years of built up resentment, instead of coming off as assertive and confident, you may come off as psycho and disgruntled. Be assertive from the beginning- you will like the outcome. I hate to quote Dr. Phil, but the man did say something that stuck with me and is true, ” we teach people how to treat us.”