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How to Be More Assertive at Work

7 Tips for Setting Boundaries At WorkWe’ve all had days or weeks or months at our jobs where we feel like we’re being taken advantage of. You know the feeling: if it doesn’t come in getting passed over for an opportunity, it comes at the hands of either your boss or coworkers not giving you the respect you think you deserve.

You’ve also come up with reasons why these things happen. Sometimes it’s because Jerry from the art department is a brownnoser. Sometimes it’s because of your bad luck and the notion that you just can’t catch a break. Overall, though, you just wish you could be more assertive.

Assertiveness comes in confidence and it comes in self-awareness, and if you’re lacking those two things it can feel like the world is against you.

Have you ever really taken a firm stand when it comes to things that you want and you know you can do? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t, but the fact remains, you need to be confident enough to make your stance known and to pursue it.

Confidence and self-awareness come from being comfortable in your own skin and being smart enough to know when things are out of whack.

If you can accept your misgivings and missed opportunities and work on them actively, you know you’re on the right track.

Accepting that you didn’t get the Johnson account or that you are not the smartest, or the most handsome, or the most business savvy gives you an excellent frame of reference on the spectrum of your own strengths and your own weaknesses.

Know what you did wrong, what you could’ve done and what you can’t do and be comfortable with that.

Once you have those things figured out, the best advice is to play to your strengths and do what’s in your power to make things better for yourself.

If you know where your strengths lie and what you can comfortably do, the rest comes more easily.

Being assertive is simply trusting in your own judgment enough to know when you can or can’t do something and staying firm with that judgment.

If you have the experience and you have the skills, what’s stopping you?

Keep in mind, though, that being assertive does not mean being pushy. If you push your way into things or exert your will onto things forcefully, people will just think you’re a jerk.

Being empathetic to the attitudes of the people around you and letting other people voice their opinions are very important in establishing a rapport. This rapport will create the freedom of speaking your mind without fear of judgment or criticism.

Respect and assertiveness go hand in hand.

One last point: It’s important to know that you can build on your abilities if there’s something you’re not yet quite comfortable doing.

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.

A great deal of pride and confidence comes when you accomplish something you weren’t sure you could do.

Sometimes it requires initiative and a little uncertainty. But if you make something happen that you were afraid to do, it’s incredibly freeing. You now have that stepping stone on which to build more and more skills.

In summary, know yourself, know what you can do, be empathetic and respectful to those around you and don’t be afraid to try something new.

Once you have those down, assertiveness or taking a stand in your abilities is cake.

How to Be More Assertive at Work

Michael Hedrick

Mike Hedrick is a writer and photographer in Boulder, CO. He has lived with schizophrenia for many years and his work has been published in Salon, Scientific American and The New York Times. His book is available here You can follow his blog on living with schizophrenia here

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APA Reference
Hedrick, M. (2018). How to Be More Assertive at Work. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 20 Jul 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.