Assertiveness is an important skill in the workplace. By being assertive, managers can ensure that they get the best out of their staff, as well as making sure that what they want is made clear. It has been my experience that when managers are under significant stress they can cross the line into being aggressive and bullying. This is hugely damaging to relationships and in turn to productivity and profitability.
There is much research into the causes of stress. Bullying is cited as one of the major causes. Billions of pounds are lost every year because of the high levels of absence caused by stress. Equally the research into what makes companies successful over a long period of time demonstrates that great working relationships built on mutual trust and respect are at the top of the list.
It is important to recognise that bullying takes many forms. The most common include:
People being intimidated because the manager's body language or voice is agressive.
Not listening to staff and taking their concerns, queries or issues seriously.
Not giving staff a chance to understand what is required. Telling someone "it's not good enough" without being explicit about what specifically is required is a very common issue.
Disciplining staff in front of others.
Using sarcasm or belittling people.
Assertiveness, on the other hand, has a lot to do with staying calm. When speaking, only 7-8% of the impact comes from your words. Over 50% is wrapped up in body language and over 30% is down to the tone of voice used. This means it is especially important to remain calm and in control while communication with others: a golden rule is to never deal with people when angry.
Understandably, there will be times when you do feel frustrated, but it is far better to walk away and come back to the issue once you are calm than say things you might regret later because you are angry or frustrated. Explaining this to your staff will be beneficial to the working relationship, encouraging open communication.
If something is going wrong with your team, it is useful to look to yourself as their manager first. Do you need to set clearer expectations? Are you giving developmental feedback? Are you holding people to account effectively? Do you need to change a policy? Learning from any situation is important if patterns of behaviour are not to become entrenched.
My favourite quote is from Einstein - "The definition of madness is to keep doing the same and expecting a different result. Yet we all do things over and over again whilst wishing things would change. The outcome is in your hands.
If you would like more helpful information on managing relationships in the workplace, give Gina a call on the number shown above, or click the header of any page to send an email.
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