Career Skills: Becoming More Assertive in the Workplace

Being assertive is an important skill for succeeding in the modern office or other employment setting. After all, few people will ever receive more responsibility, a better position or a raise without asking for these things to happen. While it is difficult for a person to completely change his or her personality overnight, the following will help a person to develop the assertive traits that are useful in the workplace.

Passiveness, Assertiveness and Aggressiveness

Before learning to be assertive, many people need to learn the meaning of assertiveness. An assertive person is one who speaks up for his or her needs, expresses both positive and negative emotions and does not avoid conflict simply to keep the peace. Conversely, a passive person is one who stays quiet and lets others make all of the decisions. On the other extreme, an aggressive person is one who dominates all interactions and tramples the rights of others through loud, rude and boorish behaviors. While there may be times that aggressive and passive behaviors can be beneficial, a person who is assertive is typically the most successful.


To develop effective skills, a person needs some real-life examples of when he or she is not assertive. By keeping a notebook on hand at work, a person should be able to come up with a few examples from everyday situations at work. For example, a person may always be given the task of picking up lunches for everyone else in the office. Picking up these lunches daily may cause the person to fall behind on his or her work and then be forced to work late to catch up.


Once some examples of non-assertive behavior have been identified, he or she should think about alternative behaviors that are assertive and would work better in the future. In the lunch example, the person may choose to tell his or her co-workers that it is not fair for him or her to get the lunches every day and the responsibility should be shared among those in the office. When choosing alternatives, it is important to keep the response short and to the point. In many cases, simply saying “No” can be an appropriate and assertive response.

Role Playing

Once a positive and assertive behavior has been identified to replace the passive one, a person should practice the scenario with a trusted individual. If no individual is available, a person can use a pet, stuffed animal or other object to practice being assertive. Making an audio and video recording of the conversation is also a good idea, as it is important to be aware of voice tone and volume as well as body language. When being assertive, it is important to speak clearly and to look the person being spoken to directly in the eye.


Though it may take some time, a person should begin to implement the examples of assertiveness that he or she has chosen. This should be started as slowly as possible to encourage success. Once a small amount of success is found by being assertive, it will become easier to build upon this success and to be more assertive at the office and in other parts of life.

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