Guest blog by Debbie Anderson, Learning & Development Consultant
It was February, annual appraisal time, and I was steeling myself for a conversation with my manager. I had performed well that year so I knew that there was a good chance that I would be considered for a pay rise and promotion. The trouble was I had missed out for the past three years, so how on earth was I going to build up the courage to raise it with my manager now?
Is Doing Your Job Well Enough to Get Noticed?
My challenge was that I was a remote worker. My manager was based in Germany, his manager in Australia, and my big boss in America. I hadn’t met any of them in person so how was I going to get noticed?
Added to this, I was having difficulty with managing my workload. A victim of my own success, people were coming to me to ask for my help and I just couldn’t say no. It might jeopardise my chance of a salary increase and promotion! These were the stories I told myself many times early on in my career.
You might be sitting here right now thinking, wow, I can relate to this. Many of us have fallen into the trap of thinking that a job well done is sufficient to get us noticed. The trouble is, our managers are not mind readers, and unless you specifically tell them about your successes, wishes and concerns, you will not be at the top of their list when it comes to the things that are important to you.
Why is it so difficult to assert ourselves and communicate with confidence?
It is often driven by the fear that we might be upsetting others and we don’t want to be seen as aggressive. There is also a misconception that aggressive communication is the same as being assertive. Let’s dispel this myth right now:
- The aggressive communication style is one that you will hear, see, and even feel, in which individuals express their feelings and opinions and advocate for their needs in a way that can violate the rights of others.
- Assertive communication is a style in which individuals clearly state their opinions and feelings, and firmly advocate for themselves through collaboration. Whilst advocating for themselves they are very respectful of the rights of others.
How do we shift into being more assertive?
Check out the tips below:
- Just Say NO
Don’t beat around the bush or offer excuses. Provide a brief explanation if you feel you need to, however, don’t feel compelled. Ask yourself ‘what is the worst that can happen by saying NO?’ Find someone you can trust who you can practice with until it feels more natural to say no.
2. Be courteous and firm
You might say, “I can’t right now but will let you know when and if I can.” This approach changes the dynamic and you’re taking charge. If someone can’t accept your no, stand firm, and don’t feel compelled to give in just because that person is uncomfortable.
3. Put the question back on the person asking
Let’s say a supervisor is asking you to take on more tasks than you can handle, you might say, “I’m happy to do X, however, I would need a week, rather than two days to do a good job. How would you like this to be prioritised?”
4. Act as if you expect to get it when asking for something
Part of this is mindset. If you go into a salary negotiation thinking it will go badly, you are setting yourself up to fail before you have started. Your state of mind will affect your body posture, eye contact, tone of voice and choice of words. Expect to succeed in your request and you may be surprised by the outcome.
5. Ask someone who can give it to you
Before you ask someone for something, assess whether they will be able to give it to you. Consider the power that they have; are they in a position to be able to deliver what you want? Are they the right person to ask?
6. Be clear and specific
Be as concise as you possibly can in your requests. Ask for what you want, not for what you don’t want. Get straight to the point and be prepared to provide supporting reasons.
7. Give something to get something
When you’re asking, always be sure to explain what’s in it for the other person and how they benefit. They are much more likely to support you.
8. Ask repeatedly
If someone says no to you, expect it. Do not allow that one set back to stop you asking again. The more you ask in a respectful and authentic way, the more likely you will be remembered.
As a result of the COVID virus many of us are working remotely which makes communicating assertively and being visible more challenging. In addition to the tips above, remember the adage of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ so:
- Don’t rely on your manager to set up regular meetings, do it yourself
- Turn on your camera and insist on video conferencing
- Be proactive and send your achievements and successes to your manager on a regular basis
- Take time to grow your network and get to know people, there are all sorts of creative ways you can do this even when working from home.
Remember that to be a more assertive communicator you will need to practice, practice, practice. The more you test and challenge yourself, the more confident you will become.
What’s the worst that can happen?
You may find these resources helpful:
- Blog: Assertive Communication – Who gets heard and why
- Blog: How to be more assertive at work – top tips from Jenny Garrett
- Blog: 18 Tips to Improve your Communication Skills
Debbie has worked as an HR professional since 1999 and in 2007 she shifted direction to focus on her passion; learning and development.
She worked as a European training manager, facilitator and coach for a Fortune 500 company for 23 years and left in 2016 to set up her own training and coaching business. Debbie is a member of the ILM (Institute of Leadership & Management) and EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council). She is an ILM accredited executive coach.
Debbie’s approach to learning is to keep things simple and experiential; she encourages people to focus on mind-set shift and behaviour change whilst having a lot of fun along the way.
She has built a reputation for delivering thought provoking training designed to unleash potential. She is co-author of “Revival – Women Embracing Their Super Powers,” a collaborative work where 30 women share their stories, their highs and lows, and how they overcame adversity.
Debbie’s hobbies include skiing, scuba diving and sailing. Her goal is to find that one perfect location in the world where she can go on holiday and do all three. A perfect day is having the time to get stuck into a good book.