You've probably heard the saying that when men act forceful in the workplace, it's considered assertive, but when women do it, it's bitchy. Don't let that stop you from putting yourself out there. Being assertive does not mean being overly aggressive or treating people poorly; it means knowing what you want and going after it in a confident, capable way. You know what you can do, you've worked hard to get where you are in your career and you want to continue advancing, so don't apologize for that. Say what you need to say, dress and act the part, and follow through with decisive and effective actions.
Know your stuff. More importantly, know what you don't know and then learn it. If you are knowledgeable about your job and the business, you'll be more comfortable speaking out and sticking to your guns in discussions. Build on your strengths to become more confident and take such steps as study or classes to improve your weaknesses.
Step out of the shadows. Volunteer to head up a project or committee and then lead the effort with strength and determination. Don't wait for others to make decisions for you or give you direction. This doesn't mean you should charge into a project on overseas investments if you can't even manage your own checkbook. But if it's an area you know well, challenge yourself to step up and lead. Remember the old adage, "It's better to beg forgiveness later than to ask permission first." Use this approach with discretion and professionalism, and you'll be on your way to greater assertiveness.
Stand up for your principles and opinions. Don't let people walk all over you, second-guess you or out-talk you in meetings. Present your ideas as statements, rather than questions, according to Marie McIntyre, "Your Career Coach." You don't want to come across as bitchy, but don't be a wimp, either. Tell people what you need them do rather than present it as optional. "Please give me your reports by noon Thursday" is more assertive, and far more effective than, "If you could get your reports in by the end of the week, that would be really great."
Think of yourself as stronger and more confident and then act the part. Squelch the little doubting voice in your head trying to make you question your abilities at work. Don't think about all the things that aren't right or why something won't work. Instead, tackle work tasks and projects in terms of problem solving. Impress work colleagues with your actions and knowledge, and with the results you obtain.
- The Wall Street Journal: Must Women Be More Assertive to Succeed on the Job?
- Forbes: How to be More Confident at Work
- Mind Tools: Assertiveness -- Getting What You Want, In a Fair Way
- Career Woman, Inc.: How to Be More Assertive and Outspoken Without Being Called the 'B' Word
- Your Office Coach: Are You a Workplace Wimp?
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