Mastering assertiveness as an Assistant

As an Assistant, it can be difficult to assert yourself in a professional setting. After all, as a dedicated employee supporting senior Executives and business owners, dealing with demanding personalities is just part of the job description. Delivering messages that may not always be warmly received requires confidence and finesse – skills that take practice and patience. It’s impossible to start mastering assertiveness as an Assistant overnight – but you can implement strategies today to develop the critical components required for success as an effective yet assertive Assistant.

Being assertive is essential, as it empowers you to communicate effectively, set boundaries, and advocate for yourself. This article will explore the importance of assertiveness in the Assistant role and provide tips on being assertive professionally and respectfully.

What is assertiveness?

Assertiveness is the ability to express your thoughts, needs, and opinions directly and respectfully while also considering the rights and views of others. It is a communication style that falls between passivity (where you don’t express your needs) and aggressiveness (where you disregard others’ opinions and rights). Assertiveness is about finding the right balance, and communicating assertively can help you establish healthy relationships, build trust, and achieve your goals effectively.

Questions to Ask a New Executive

Use this guide to work in sync with your Executive from day one.

SMART objectives and goal-setting template for Assistants

Objective and Goal Setting Bundle

Ace your next preview with this fantastic bundle of SMART objectives and goal-setting templates.

Why is mastering assertiveness as an Assistant important?

As an Assistant, you are often responsible for managing tasks, coordinating with senior team members, and communicating with various stakeholders.

Assertive communication is crucial for Assistants to effectively communicate with their Executives and navigate challenging situations. It involves expressing thoughts and feelings clearly and respectfully while also considering the needs of others. By practising assertive communication techniques, establishing an open dialogue with your Executive, and maintaining healthy work boundaries, you can thrive in your role as an Assistant and contribute to a positive work environment. Being assertive in this role is critical for several reasons:

Effective communication

Assertiveness enables you to clearly express your thoughts, ideas, and expectations, which helps avoid miscommunication and misunderstandings. It allows you to ask for clarification when needed and provide feedback or suggestions constructively, leading to efficient communication in the workplace.

Boundary setting

Assistants often face demands from multiple directions and may be prone to overwork or being taken advantage of. Being assertive helps you set appropriate boundaries by saying no when necessary, managing your workload, and negotiating realistic deadlines, which promotes a healthy work-life balance.


Assertiveness allows you to express concerns, raise issues, and proactively provide solutions. It helps you address problems or conflicts professionally and collaboratively, fostering a positive work environment and building trust with your team and stakeholders.

Career growth

Assertiveness is a crucial skill for career advancement. It demonstrates your confidence, competence, and leadership potential. When you are assertive in expressing your skills, accomplishments, and aspirations, you are more likely to be noticed and rewarded for your contributions.

How to be more assertive in the Assistant role?

Here are some practical tips for being assertive in your Assistant role:

Be prepared

Before communicating, be clear about what you want to say or ask. Organise your thoughts and gather relevant information to support your points. Being prepared helps you articulate your message confidently and assertively.

Use “I” statements

When expressing your thoughts or needs, use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For example, say, “I need more time to complete this task” instead of, “You are giving me too much work.” “I” statements are less accusatory and convey your perspective without putting others on the defensive.

Practice active listening

Listening is a crucial component of effective communication. Pay attention to the speaker, avoid interrupting, and clarify any points that are not clear. Reflect on what the speaker said to ensure understanding. Active listening shows respect and helps you respond assertively.

Be firm but respectful

Assertiveness does not mean being aggressive or rude. It’s about expressing your needs and opinions firmly and respectfully. Use a confident tone of voice, maintain eye contact, and use appropriate body language. Avoid apologising excessively or using overly passive language that weakens your message.

Set clear boundaries

Learn to say no when you need to. Be realistic about your workload and prioritise tasks. In a recent session for The EA Campus, Abigail Jones, Executive Assistant at Meta, described setting boundaries for Assistants. She said:

“Assertive communication also involves respecting boundaries, both your own and others’. As an assistant, you may often find yourself in a position where you have to communicate difficult news or push back on unrealistic expectations. It’s important to focus on the issues at hand and not let it become personal. By appealing to the shared interests of all parties involved, you can navigate challenging conversations with professionalism and assertiveness.”

Ultimately, mastering assertiveness as an Assistant is attainable. Finding the right balance between being assertive and maintaining professionalism can be difficult. And if ever you struggle, don’t forget that resources are available to help you along the way – like the Assistant Mindset Online Course. Learn from experienced professionals how to properly handle demanding tasks, deliver messages without hesitation and increase your confidence.