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Developing Assertiveness in Organizations: Principles and Tools Published: Sunday, October 24, 2010 8:00 am By: Dr. Ariadna Montero, Psychology and Organizational

Organizations are becoming ever more conscious of the need to invest in the growth and development of its human capital. The results are evident in all areas of the organizational environment such as: leadership development, personal satisfaction, engagement; and employees are empowered to create, support and implement strategic initiatives and decisions.

During the past 20 years QBS has specialized in providing unique alternatives and solutions to manage the daily challenges which Puerto Rico and worldwide organizations face. One of QBS’ most robust units is the Human Capital Team. The educational process of growth and development of human capital has various goals: improve capabilities and directive abilities, develop leadership, effective interpersonal relationships, time management to balance personal and business requirements, improve performance, develop the capacity to lead and motivate teams, efficient change management, assumption of new challenges and responsibilities and assertive communications management. Coaching for the development of desired management skills is one of the most effective tools the institute offers amongst its vast array of offerings.

One of the areas of opportunity coaches and investigators find in the exercise of organizational coaching is the ability to communicate; specifically assertive communications. It is not surprising if we consider that the organizational environment challenges us every day with an array of social interactions and in this relationship cobweb, assertiveness is the most powerful communications tool to manage and resolve the diverse situations we must face.

Assertiveness has been defined in literature; according to Sánchez (2000); it is “the direct expression of feelings, desires, legitimate rights, and opinions without threatening or punishing others and without violating the rights of others”. Assertiveness comes from the latin word asserere, assertum, which means “affirm”. Therefore assertiveness means “affirming” one’s personality, self confidence, self esteem and safe and efficient communications.

 Assertiveness is nothing more than the presentation in the most fair and respectful way of our rights, feelings and ideas to others, making clear our position in the most concise manner; without forgetting our role in the organizational structure.

It is possible that the social training we receive in our socialization process predisposes us to a certain degree of “un-assertiveness” in our behavior. Many times we say “yes” when we want to say “no”   or we abide by decisions that we do not agree with from abusive or inconsiderate persons. Who hasn’t felt frustrated for having followed other rules which we did not agree with? Who hasn’t looked in the mirror looking for forgiveness for not following one’s heart?

Many people experience difficulty in expressing negative feelings or disagreement. For example in the work team it is not difficult to find someone who will always say “yes” to tasks that are almost impossible to achieve; especially when that person is overloaded with work. As a consequence of the lack of assertiveness to communicate the situation, the rest of the team may believe that the person is satisfied with the situation when in reality they are overloaded with work. It is important to clarify that we are not referring to sacrificing one’s self for the common good; but rather the difficult situation in which we place ourselves and our teammates when we are unable to express our disagreement or stand by what we consider our rights.

Assertiveness is not simply saying yes or no; it is something deeper that deals with the person’s emotional state, areas of strength and the self consciousness the person has about their needs and values. Therefore assertiveness is intimately tied to each individual’s personality. People are not born assertive or not; as we are not born with character traits, as each are developed throughout our lives.  “Assertiveness is a type of social skill that people have in larger or smaller degrees”. However, if we aim to reach the perfect personal success formula for happiness it is imperative that we develop an assertive conduct.

Today’s organizations need assertive persons. The simple skill of knowing when and how to say things, and discovering when to praise publicly or have a personal meeting with a teammate or subordinate, projects a contagious image of respect and confidence across the organization.

A person with assertive behavior is capable of communicating with confidence with superiors and transmit doubts or problems in a precise and correct manner. Equally the assertive person knows when and how to communicate with subordinates with respect, empathy and understanding to offer them guidance and instructions in such a way that the message is well received. These actions will make the employee a capable leader; direct with his superiors, empathic and firm with his subordinates, especially when they use assertive conduct with respect, consideration and clarity.

Assertiveness is fully developable through coaching. In this case the “Coachee” enters an assertive training process which includes evaluation, auto observation and exposure to the practice of assertive behavior. There are key elements, which with the Coach’s aid; the “Coachee” must develop: Self Esteem, Planned Messages, Adequate Posture, Verbal Fluidity, Volume and Voice Modulation and Visual Contact or “the look”.

The benefits an organization receives from developing its human capital are enormous. Leaders with  assertiveness skills will have the resources and capacity to challenge and implement strategy, manage emotions in the professional arena, give, process and receive feedback adequately, effectively prevent conflicts, understand different behavior styles and learn to use them to build productive relationships, improve supervisory skills and face with enthusiasm changes and challenges in organizational life.

Copyright 2010 QBS, Inc.
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