How to be more assertive at work

Great advice from Leadership Coach Duncan Lewin

How to be more assertive at work

Do you always make yourself heard at work? Are you able to express yourself clearly and openly? Or do you hold back? Say ‘yes’, when you mean ‘no’? Put on a ‘work personality’ different to that which you display in your private life?

In asking people which personal attribute they would most like to improve at work, ‘assertiveness’ is one of the most prominent. So what blocks you from being assertive at work? For me, it is down to the fears we have around others’ reactions to our open communication. If you want to be more assertive, and further your self-development, you have to be able to identify and examine how these fears are affecting you.

How to be more assertive at work

Here are two tools I use with clients:

Finding your fears: Bring to mind a person, or group of people, you struggle to assert yourself with at work.

Make a list of the adjectives you are afraid they will think of you if you speak your truth.

For example, “If I say what I really feel about this project, I am afraid they will think I am…..stupid, wrong, difficult, unhelpful.”

Take this list and ask yourself, “Where is it in my life that I sometimes  see myself as ‘stupid’, ‘wrong’, ‘difficult’ and ‘unhelpful’?” Find 3 specific examples (or more) for each of these judgements.

When you can really look at where you make these judgements on yourself, and see where they are true for you, are you still so afraid of what your colleagues might think of you? Or can you now see that what they may say about you are things you’ve already told yourself, in which case, where’s the problem?

Worst that can happen: Make a list of the worst things that can happen if you speak your truth at work.

For example,

– People won’t like me.

– I will be sidelined for promotion.

– I’ll lose my job.

And then identify 3 reasons why each of these things would be the ‘best that can happen’ to you. What would be good about losing your job? About being overlooked for promotion? What opportunities might these scenarios open up in your life?

Often the mind doesn’t want to go there and we resist looking. But the truth is, all of these outcomes can and do happen to many people every year. When you really look, can you see how you would survive, and maybe even prosper if any of these outcomes were to come true?


How to be more assertive at work by Duncan LewinAbout the author: Duncan Lewin coaches leaders to improve their personal effectiveness and get more from their teams. Specialisms include performance management, team engagement, improving assertiveness and handling difficult conversations. Please contact us to learn more about coaching with Duncan.



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