At My Work Place!
Every Wednesday in The Oman Daily Observer Features Weekend
This Week Article – Assertiveness At The Job Front!
There is no ‘I’ in Hunter!
- Are you capable of making tough job decisions? Remaining and being Assertive? Saying No Affirmatively? Stop being docile and weak?
One of the comedy series that I like to watch is ‘Mumbai Calling!’ There are others copying but none like this one! It is very funny and pokes fun at an Indian Calling Centre trying to serve its mainly non-Indian based customers (and those on visit to India) and the clash in culture, customs, habits, values and traditions. The ironical part is that they had brought over a British Lady in addition ‘to manage and look after things’ – though the Indian guy there is quite capable by himself to do so – though he too is British born!
Trust the British Lady Manager to find it ‘all wrong the polite and docile way’ they deal with their customers – that are mainly mean, patronizing, condescending and demeaning – and even aggressive and insulting.. The Call Centre is all locally staffed – and they stand all these whilst trying to remain cool, collected, nice and pleasing as Call Centres are supposed to.
I know this from personal experiences from my own daughter who used to come home crying everyday – but then the Centre is not in India and its customers are all mainly local – and they feel it all okay for personal affronts and taking out their frustrations and insults on a front line poor girl than directed at the establishment.
Anyway, the British Lady Manager is very disappointed that her Staff are not ‘assertive and affirmative’ enough in dealing with their customers – a perspective perhaps different if the Centre was at home and manned by their own peoples – this in itself is very insightful! So she calls a Staff Meeting to talk about Assertiveness – despite protestations from her deputies that think it was unneeded and was against the home culture.
She starts her lecture by saying that ‘she is a hunter, and she hunts her preys for food – and that in between the word of Assertiveness is the letter I (Me!). Forgetting that she is addressing Staff that are mainly vegetarian – and there is no hunting or meat in their diets. She tries to encourage in Play Act for one Staff to terminate another who comes from the same home town – and he breaks down that he cannot do it – and if he goes – he will go too. He tries on the boy (next story) to stand up to his Mother to say he does not like her food (a thing which is not on even at home – as a Mother is a Mother anywhere in the world)!
The meeting soon falls apart – where some are seen to be running out to vomit because they had just been made to behave and act differently – and also to have a change in their food diet! Then the talk moves to arranged marriages and her attempt mainly to push one of the young boys to stand up to his parents because he was being forced into an arranged marriage. That is where the boy standing up to his parents is all confused and lost – and is heard muttering that there is an I in Hunter (instead of Assertive) – and his Father corrects him that he is mistaken because there is no I in Hunter!
Live Example – I remember this too myself in the early 1980s in my last Oil Company where we had a similar Manager who had wanted us also Omanis to be more ‘assertive, affirmative – and less docile’ – his own words. So we went for the Lecture. What do we lose? Just to get two days off Office work – and where there are a lot of breaks – and coffee, tea and snacks served too – with a ‘free’ lunch on top!
The Lecturer started first by asking each one of us to stand up in the class and introduce ourselves – and also to add this part ‘Why do I think my boss sent me for this course?’.So when it came to my part and after having introduced myself I added – Frankly I do not know why my boss had sent me for this course. If I have anything on my mind, I talk to him frankly about it – and follow up by an Email write up. I stand my ground – and I let no one push me around – and especially if I know I am right, correct, professional and ethical – not only him as my boss but even his boss too. Then he asked me – Then why are you in this course? I said – Ask my boss, not me! He then told me I could go – but the girls in the class wanted me to stay – so you can make us laugh – they said to me in unison!
There is nothing wrong in being assertive especially at the work place – and learning to say No at the same time. Indeed we could do more with all these – it is the imposition and style being introduced that is all wrong! There is also this old adage – if there is a thing working for you – let it grow and prosper – and do not spoil things for yourself. Or the famous ones – Let sleeping dogs lie – or still – Never trouble ‘trouble’ till it troubles you!
By Majid Al Suleimany
Assertiveness – what is it?
Constantly feel like a doormat? Do your superiors make unreasonable demands that you just can’t say “no” to? Then it’s
time to get assertive.
What is it?
Assertiveness is a way of expressing your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in a direct, honest, and appropriate way. An assertive person effectively influences, listens, and negotiates so that others choose to cooperate willingly. It does not mean being aggressive, nor does it mean you will get your own way all the time. But it should help prevent you being burdened with other people’s problems and responsibilities.
If you tend to panic, hide under your desk or fly off the handle at the first whiff of a problem, you probably need to take heed of these tips and assert yourself in the office.
- Be clear about what you want to say: Make direct statements that take responsibility for what you say,
i.e. use ‘I’ rather than ‘s/he’ or ‘everyone thinks.’
- Get straight to the point: Don’t allow yourself to get sidetracked by colleagues or trying to
soften the blow.
- Be prepared to compromise: Remember that other people have rights too don’t become the office
- Use suitable facial expressions: Maintain good eye contact and keep your voice firm but pleasant.
By keeping calm and attentive you will make the other person more ready to
- Listen: Let people know you have heard what they said. This doesn’t mean you have to
agree with them.
- Ask for time to think, if necessary: There is nothing wrong with admitting that you need time to make a
- Don’t apologise unless there is a good reason to do so: Don’t say ‘sorry’ merely because the other
person is unlikely to be pleased with what you are saying. It is better to give reasons rather than excuses for what you want to do.
- Learn to say no to unreasonable requests: Use the word “no” and offer an explanation if you choose to. Do not apologize and do not make up excuses. Paraphrase the other person’s point of view. This will let he/she know that you hear and understand the request.
Often you can get assertiveness training within the workplace or at a local evening class. Ask your boss or contact your local careers centre for more information
Developing an assertive style isn’t easy. Constant practice is necessary. The following eight steps should help, however.
Listen to yourself. Are you speaking in an assertive manner? Are you too passive or too aggressive?
Keep a record of your assertiveness. Record each day those situations in which you found yourself responding assertively, those in which you blew it, and those you avoided altogether so that you would not have to act assertively.
Reflect on a particular situation. Review how you handled a specific situation—for example, seeing an employee come in late after numerous warnings. Did you ignore the behavior once again, did you lose your temper, or did you
call the employee into your office and speak calmly to determine the cause of the tardiness?
Review your replies. Think about what you specifically said. While you might generally have communicated in an assertive manner, did you lose it during your conversation and slip briefly into a passive or aggressive style? If so, what
do you think prompted the lapse?
Consider alternative responses. Ask yourself how you could have handled the situation better. Could you have dealt with it more to your advantage?
Imagine yourself handling the situation in a new way. Try out new responses to situations. Be assertive, but be as natural as you can. At this point, it may be helpful to model yourself after someone who has handled a similar
Do it. Be aware of the feedback you receive, both verbal and nonverbal. Did you accomplish your goals?
Be aware of feedback. Continue to adapt your behavior to achieve your desired interpersonal goals. Ask colleagues and peers, “How am I doing?”
The best managers are open and direct communicators, able to express their feelings, needs, and wants to others. Managers tend to get results when they unambiguously communicate their goals and objectives. Energy is often wasted
defending and attacking, when in reality, goal-oriented behavior usually works
Those who have this assertiveness knack are comfortable with themselves, and others are likely to be comfortable with them—at least, they aren’t likely to feel threatened by them. They won’t try put-downs, verbal attacks, or exploitation. Rather, they communicate in a straightforward manner. A healthy self- respect grows between assertive managers and their staff. Openness begets trust and builds confidence.
If you agree with praise, don’t be afraid to say so. “Thank you. I was pleased with the work myself.” If you don’t feel the praise was justified, don’t argue—just thank the person.
Make a refusal brief and clear but not abrupt. “I would rather not. . . .”
Don’t make excuses. They will just backfire on you. Besides, making excuses is non-assertive behavior.
Keep in mind that a request isn’t a command. If a request is being made, then you have the right to say no.