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Women in Focus

How To Be More Assertive At Work: 13 Hacks You Need To Know

Carla Cain Walther
by Carla Cain Walther Published on 17 September 2014

Good things don't come to those who wait. Good things come to those who know what they want and work hard to get it. Everyone gets a little intimidated at work but if you want to be a successful woman with a blossoming career, being confident and firm with your coworkers is essential. Anxious for that promotion? Then find out how to be more assertive so you can stand out and climb up the ladder!

If you want to earn every penny you're worth, being timid and bashful in the workplace just isn't going to fly. Yet, assertiveness has gotten a bad rep over the past few years.

Sometimes standing up for yourself at work can be construed as pushy and disagreeable behaviour when in fact it helps you navigate the more thorny personalities in the workplace in a professional manner. Assertiveness also steers you towards the path of most success because you're the one controlling the wheel!

We spoke to the amazing Beverly Hills Career Coach, Ashley Stahl, on how to be more confident and clear with your colleagues. She first conceded that many of us who are just entering the job market undervalue ourselves.

​"In the wake of economic recession, the idea of employer-employee loyalty has vanished," Ashley explains. "This leaves fresh graduates in fear that they’re the bottom of the totem pole because they don’t have as much experience as the rest of the employees."

Don't the let anxiety and nerves eat you up. Read on to find out what you can do to be more assertive and get the most of your job!

1. Understand your value

First of all, you're valuable!

"Millennials are the most educated generation, and thus many fresh graduates are gifted in bringing their knowledge—be it writing, math, or engineering—to the table," Ashley says with pride. "We grew up in the era of the tech boom, so we also have unique, unprecedented knowledge on social media and the Internet... These are two powerful forces in business today!"

​You have a lot to offer your colleagues and they know that so stop doubting yourself!

2. Keep your fashion risks out of the office

Yes, it's shallow, but the way you appear at work will affect your career in small ways. "Your outfit is a vehicle of self-expression in the workplace," Ashley states. "It’s great to be your beautiful self with your clothing choices as long as you’re honoring the dress code."

Sporting clothes that are more appropriate for a night out on the town with your friends could overshadow your capabilities and might "drive colleagues to the conclusion that you’re not professional."

3. Become fluent in body language

Yes, there will be times at work when you're frustrated or stewing over a mistake you made, but keep that anxiety or boredom hidden. Why? Because, Ashley explains, "your body language also provides a powerful platform for being interpreted in the workplace, as experts estimate that the vast majority of your communication (93%) is nonverbal."

Little mannerisms like tapping your pen, sighing loudly, or rolling your eyes are not going unnoticed. "Your clothing, body language and energy often count even more than your words. It’s more important than ever that in meetings you avoid slouching, which shows disengagement."

4. Shine on paper

You don't have to change your personality completely in the workplace. Ashley suggests that "if you’re an introvert, it’s critical that—at the very least—your work speaks for itself. Even if you’re quiet, you’ll shine through your results/delivery."

​Assertiveness doesn't necessarily mean being the most vocal. When it comes to our jobs, actions often speak louder than words. When your bosses trust that you not only get work done but get it done well, they'll consider you a reliable and proactive employee!

5. Take on more assignments

Well, don't agree to do extra work if you can't complete it on time, but if you finish your To Do list by the middle of the week consider stepping up and asking for more work. It'll deepen the good impression your higher-ups have of you.

"Great employees pay attention to their boss’ priorities and pain points," Ashley beings. "...They [also] constantly offer to take on side projects—projects that the boss may not have initially thought about—to improve a process or ease the workload."

When you see a chance to make a difference, run after it. However, still remain cautious against biting off more than you can chew!

6. Get work mentors

"It’s also more important than ever that introverts builds strong one-on-one relationships so that they have advocates to support their advancement." We couldn't agree with Ashley's advice more!

You certainly don't need to be chummy with every single coworker and manager you interact with, but make an effort to establish a positive and helpful working relationship with a few of them.

Those relationships could lead to amazing opportunities like overseeing an important project or even getting your name thrown in during a discussion on who to promote!

7. Know when to listen

Don't equate assertiveness with pushiness. That misguided interpretation could turn you into the office loudmouth rather than an employee with valuable insights.

"Make a conscious effort to quiet the voice in your head that wants to prove itself, so that you can really hear and process what others are saying," Ashley says. "If your colleagues feel valued, respected, and heard, they’ll notice your maturity and they’ll listen to you. It’s about collaboration and mutual respect."

You don't have to be a wallflower in the workplace, but sometimes sitting back and retaining all the information laid out in a meeting is better than coming up with a half-baked contribution to the discussion!

8. Don't expect frequent recognition

"Women must stop relying so heavily on praise," Ashley asserts...and she's right. "While it is lovely and victories are worth celebrating, I found that I was never satisfied when I only focused on external reinforcement."

Ultimately, depending on a pat on a back from your boss to boost your confidence at work is harmful to your career goals."The reality is that if you fixate too much on the external, you often overlook the internal. Consider how YOU want to feel when you’re setting goals. If you place too much value on praise, you’ll fixate too much on the lack thereof."

Feel free to treat yourself when you've done something well but don't expect to get it from your bosses every single time.

9. Accept criticism

Ashley understands that "sometimes criticism will cut to the heart of your insecurities." It's not easy to hear feedback on how you can do better even if it's delivered nicely.

Unfortunately, it IS easy to let that criticism have a painful and negative effect on your thinking. Try to correct that harsh judgment of yourself before it causes lasting damage on your attitude.

​You're not perfect and, believe it or not, your bosses don't think you're perfect either. Their criticism is given to help you produce the best work possible. "I hope women take these sorts of opportunities as an invitation to confront them and revisit their sense of self, because once that is once that is solidified, neither praise nor criticism can disturb it."

10. Get over it

So you royally screwed up at work and now you feel the need to say sorry every second. Apologize to the appropriate person once AND THEN GET OVER IT.

"One apology is powerful," says Ashley. "But great employees demonstrate resilience right after the matter. If there’s something to apologize for, always take responsibility, but make sure you move on and keep doing you work afterwards. We are all human!"

11. Be a career risk-taker

"Take risks," Ashley advises.

Don't be so afraid to fail that you refuse to take on any challenges. That's a great way to remain in entry level status for years! "I’ve learned that risk-taking is a muscle and the moment you dive into the discomfort of them, it becomes your new normal."

12. It's not a popularity contest

"From a young age, we are fiercely taught the importance of likability. Yet, this can be incredibly damaging when it shows up in the workplace," Ashley maintains. "Ask yourself: 'Do I want to be liked or respected?' Sometimes you can score both, but there are many times where you have to pick one."

It's true that employees often get side-tracked with unproductive thoughts on whether they're liked by their colleagues, but - think about it! We've all had a boss who is all business and rarely stops in for water cooler talk about her weekend. And we've all watched that boss get promoted many times.

If you have lofty career goals then focus on doing great work and networking, not on if you're going to be invited to the executive's baby shower next month!

13. Develop a work persona

"This process of creating a professional persona and honoring it enables you to succeed with authenticity and choice, regardless of your natural default settings," Ashley explains.

Before you go into your first day on the job or transition into a new position, make a list of qualities you want your colleagues to recognize in you. Are you helpful, innovative, a problem-solver? "Be intentional about what [your professional] identity looks like – what it values, expects, and requires – and honor that vision."

The final word...

"Clarity comes from engagement, not thought," Ashley begins. "Sometimes I see clients thinking themselves into a spiral, and the truth is being in limbo is one of the most powerless places you can be. It's so important that women avoid perfection paralysis and engage in something that gets them thinking! Marinating won't support their higher goals and clarity."

How are you assertive in the workplace? Tweet us @sofeminineUK!

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