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Are you an aggressive or assertive manager?




Learn how to handle authority with grace: be strong, be fair and be respected.

Think of someone who has a seemingly natural air of authority, who gets things done and is listened to without ever shouting, threatening, bribing, sulking or bullying. There aren’t many of them around, but assertive people stand out a mile when you come across them, particularly at work. In contrast, there are plenty of aggressive people around – especially bosses – who use bullying tactics and think they’re being assertive. To be assertive is to be neither a doormat nor a bully. And what’s more, it’s possible for anyone to learn how to do it, with a bit of effort and patience.

1. Don’t dilute

By this I mean don’t be wishy-washy about what you are saying or asking for. Too often people apologise, make excuses, give long explanations or generally beat about the bush so that the person listening is given a very mixed message. Never say things like:

  • I’m sorry to have to ask you this
  • I feel awful about this, but…
  • I wouldn’t ask, only…

2. Be clear and direct

Work out in advance what it is you want to say and then say it as clearly and directly as you can, with no extra frills. The same thing applies whether you’re giving an order or giving your point of view. Sound as though you know what you want or what you think, and people will believe you and know where they stand with you.

3. Use few words

The fewer words you use, the bigger the impact. Powerful, effective people are always succinct. It’s a good rule of thumb to make sure that you listen more often than you speak.

4. Be positive

Make sure that you are friendly and warm without being ingratiating or overly pally. Don’t curry favour, but do smile when you ask someone to do something, and always thank them afterwards. Never raise your voice. And notice and appreciate the efforts of others. Let them feel valued.

5. Pay attention

People will take you far more seriously, and be clearer about what you want if you look directly at them and give the conversation, however brief, your full attention. A hasty order barked over your shoulder or muttered while doing something else will make the other person feel as though they don’t matter and may also give the impression that you don’t mean what you say.


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