I think it is hard for Assistants to be assertive, especially when we want to be helpful, supportive and take a flexible approach with our work. Also, I’m not 100% sure what our managers even mean when they say they want us to be assertive, do they want us to be assertive with them and push back whenever we need to? Are we supposed to aggressively protect our managers at all time or be flexible as and when the situation demands an assertive response? What do they want from us? In this post, I think it is worth exploring what assertiveness means and how it applies to the role of the Assistant.
How to be an assertive Assistant
Having an awareness of your rights
This will differ from individual to individual, but for me, I think it is an awareness of your rights but also the rights you have as an Assistant. Sometimes it can be difficult if you feel your role is not taken seriously or you are seen as non-assertive because you are an Assistant. As I’ve said before Assistants have to own their role and they have to see themselves as more than ‘just’ an Assistant. Being seen as assertive will grow once you first acknowledge your rights are the same as any other employee in your Organisation and then really value yourself. Self-esteem is crucial.
Not being overly aggressive
Or too passive. Assertiveness is that sweet spot in the middle where the two communication styles live happily together. Assistants love to be behind the scenes making everything happen and ensuring everything runs smoothly so it can be easy to fall into the trap of acting passively and giving in easily to other’s demands without pushing back, especially if we genuinely want to help and be supportive. When we are managing our Executive’s schedule, it can be difficult for us not to act aggressively when someone wants to get in front of our Executive while bypassing us. So how do we maintain a healthy balance? Well, it is firstly respecting everyone’s feelings including our own and trying to be open and honest. Plan what you are going to say when you need to be assertive and while delivering the message monitor your tone of voice and your body language, both of which should be relaxed and consistent.
Being able to defend your boundaries
I was told that I have the ‘disease to please’ (who knew!) I think it might be an epidemic amongst Assistants, as a large number of us joined the profession because we like to support others. It can be hard for Assistants to put ourselves first and respect our boundaries. It can be hard to say no to work when we are there to help others, but, we must learn to defend ourselves and we must be assertive in this, it is so essential for Assistants. If you have been asked to do something that you don’t feel comfortable with or you do not have the time or the capacity tell the individual no. Of course, come prepared with reasons why you can’t do it and also offer a different solution if you can. As hard as it is don’t feel guilty because you have made yourself the priority for a change.
Efficiently communicating your personal opinions and feelings
Expressing how you feel at work is hard and can be quite daunting if you are an Assistant working for a Senior Executive. Being assertive with your opinions will help your manager in the long run, so it is well worth considering. They need someone they can trust and rely on, and that will only come if you are open and honest with all of your opinions (well to a point anyway!)
Prepare to be assertive
We don’t have to be assertive every second of the day, so that is why we are not always so good at it. When the need arises make sure you prepare what you are going to say, how you want to appear and what tone you want to take and then practice practice practice! Think about what is going to happen after you’ve been assertive too, are they going to push-back? If so what will you do then? If you are successfully assertive on one occasion learn from that experience and put it into practice again. The same result should be achieved.
The eBook is designed to help you navigate the first few months of your new role. Here you will find everything you need for the initial first meeting with your Executive. You will also find articles on how to navigate the tricky world of working with the Executive Team, building rapport with your new Executive and advice on how you can work effectively with a boss who has never had an Assistant before. Download the free eBook now.