How to be more assertive at work without being pushy

By Robert Half on 17 June 2024

We live in a world where you have to be willing to leave your comfort zone and go after what you want in life, and that holds true in the workplace just like it does in other areas. It’s up to you to make that happen. Are you ready? Keep reading for tips on how to communicate with confidence — but without being pushy — to help you get what you want at work. 

On a scale of 1 to 10, how assertive are you at work? Do you speak up and share new ideas freely, or keep your thoughts to yourself and coast along? If you want to be a top contributor in today’s world, assertiveness is essential in making sure your voice is heard. 

How to be assertive at work is not just a matter of stating what you want or inserting yourself into conversations in a me-first kind of way. There are many moments within the workday where you have the ability to make choices about what to say and what to do. By recognizing those moments and using the opportunities they present to clearly articulate your ideas, preferences and larger visions, you can go a long way toward establishing yourself as someone whose opinion your coworkers and team leaders will value. 

One of the challenges faced in today’s workplace — both for remote workers and those in the office — is that people can become too passive or too aggressive. Falling into those traps can damage your influence at work, but those who demonstrate a balance between the two tend to get better results, both in getting what they want and in gaining a reputation as someone who, through measured and respectful assertiveness, also shows a willingness to listen and consider other points of view. After all, communication is a two-way street. 

Employers today need you to stand tall, keep your head high and have the courage to speak up confidently at work. Sometimes it requires taking the initiative without being called upon or asked. Assertiveness, confidence and self-esteem are intricately connected to one another and allow you to meet this need. 

Whatever your line of work, consider these tips that can help you get what you want in the workplace — and make the workplace better for everyone in the process. 

Decide today to assert yourself 

Make the decision right now and start practicing being assertive. Volunteer to take on new work assignments. Ask to attend meetings with your boss. Make comments and ask questions during meetings or any time new information is presented to you. By asking questions and offering feedback, you are showing that you care and are interested in achieving the best results. Chances are that you will feel more fulfilled at work when you make quality contributions and show a genuine interest in being a part of the team. 

Make the choice to be less passive and to avoid being aggressive. The happy medium is to communicate and act more assertively in the workplace. Not only does this help you get what you want at work, your approach to workplace communication can serve as a model for others in the organization who may have ideas or thoughts but don’t quite know how to share them in a way that promotes a healthy exchange of ideas. 

Communicate openly and honestly 

Engage in open and honest communication. Be respectful of other people’s wants, feelings, needs and opinions, and listen attentively. Ask follow-up questions to gather additional information and clarify what you heard. Always restate what you heard to avoid misunderstandings. Be willing to share your thoughts, needs and concerns. Having truthful conversations in the workplace can increase overall work performance. 

Believe in yourself 

During your career, there are bound to be days when you feel discouraged, dumped on and unappreciated. When these times come — and they will — remember that you are strong and capable with a mind and spirit that can overcome obstacles. Believe in the value you are adding to the workday and continue to build confidence. Being assertive is easier when you believe in yourself. 

Demonstrate caring for others 

Be sincere and demonstrate caring for others in the workplace. If you want people to support your efforts, you will want to support their efforts. Care enough for those that you work with to help them meet deadlines, complete projects and achieve career success. 

Agree to disagree 

Not everyone in the workplace will share or needs to share the same point of view. It’s okay to have a difference of opinions. Be respectful of one another and continue to support others during disagreements. You may need to be the mediator and remind others that disagreements are OK and that you can agree to disagree without it leading to workplace conflict. 

Control emotions 

Those who use assertiveness appropriately at work are in charge of their emotions. Using self-control can help you avoid becoming frustrated, angry, rude or aggressive. Keep your emotions in check for a better workplace experience on multiple levels. If you feel yourself at a breaking point, take a moment to gather yourself by taking a deep breath and pausing to collect your thoughts. 

At the end of the day, assertiveness — unlike aggression — is about standing up for yourself while steering clear of trampling on the feelings and workplace needs of others. 

The phrase “we’re all in this together” can sometimes sound a bit clichéd, but in the workplace, it’s applicable in a literal sense. By being assertive while still respecting the opinions and perspectives of others, you’ll be promoting teamwork and harmony while still asking for and getting what you need to do your best work.

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