Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Assertiveness and Managing Up

I've had too many experiences when I was already at the client's office 5 minutes before the appointed meeting time. The receptionist would tell me I have to wait because the person I am meeting was called to the boss's office. This would mean I have to languish in the reception area a minimum of 30 minutes before the meeting actually happens. That's a minimum!!! There are times when I'm feeling easily offended that I tell the receptionist I can't wait anymore. But that's seldom. I'm hard to offend. The person would be apologetic and say It can't be helped as it was the boss who called, as if it that is a valid excuse. It is not, OK? It is not. You could tell your boss that you have a scheduled meeting and that the person you're meeting is already there!

That's not all.  Whenever I do consulting or executive coaching work, I often encounter managers who complain about their being powerless to change the situation at work because their bosses make decisions  without consulting them. When I ask them if their boss knows they disagree with the decisions,  they  say the boss should know better because, well, they're the boss. In one occasion, I was talking to an HR manager who said her boss doesn't have the heart for HR and seldom gives instructions related to HR. When I talked to the boss, this is what he told me "Ed, I'm a mechanical engineer. I have a master of science degree in what I do. I know everything there is to know about the machines and the processes we have here. If there's one thing I know very little about, it's HR. I need all the advice I can get in that area. I expect my hr manager to give me the needed advice." Here in lies the problem. When we lack the assertiveness, to ask the question to our boss, we try to answer our own question, and often, the answer is wrong. When we don't have the assertiveness to present and justify a proposal to our boss, we grumble about why the boss can't figure these out for himself/herself when we can see the problem and the solution clearly. We become bitter about our assumed powerlessness and we start becoming prophets of doom to our fellow powerless people. This doesn't serve us. It doesn't serve anyone.

There is a need for assertiveness. The boss can declare open door policy and open communication everyday, but if we don't find it our responsibility to ask a question, express an opinion or painstakingly present a proposal, if we don't find the courage to do it, we will continue to suffer from powerlessness. Again, it doesn't serve us, it doesn't serve anyone.

Some people say, they're just not assertive as if assertiveness is a personality. It isn't! It's a competency! It can be learned! If you are a leader, you need to learn it! The other communication styles are bad choices! Aggressiveness promotes resentment, passiveness causes unnecessary tolerance, passive-aggressiveness, confuses people! Be assertive! Learn assertiveness! You will discover that you have immense power to control your life and to change situations if you are more assertive. Sorry about all the exclamation points! I had to stress it.