Assertiveness, what is it exactly and how to apply it at work

Assertiveness is a way of face relations with others and with what surrounds us. There are other ways, too: one can be passive, aggressive, or a mix of these two, passive-aggressive.

Without a doubt, if you want to feel OK with yourself, if you don’t want to have any remorse on what you’ve done, or feel guilty for how you’ve behaved in certain situations, then the best way to interact with others is being assertive.

That can be achieved, like everything in life, by practicing. Assertiveness is not easy at the beginning, especially if you are not used to it. You have to start with small interactions. Then, slowly, add other more complex until you can use that behaviour and approach in most situations of your life.

The ultimate goal is to be in charge or your life. Because if when you interact with others you respond only based on what others expect from you, or what you are supposed to say or do even if you don’t think that way, then you are not 100% owner of your actions.

What does that mean at work? Is saying NO that that boss, to that client that is putting pressure on you. Is putting your own interests and wellbeing first.

When can I be assertive?

Can it be applied all the time? The answer is an obvious NO. You must find a balance. Know to analyse each situation. We must know that on one hand, we can not expect acceptance based on our replies and interactions. And also, that we must accept the consequences of our assertive communication.

In many cases, we end up saying YES to requests from others when, internally, we wanted to say NO. Why? “others won’t accept my reply”, or “others won’t accept me if I say NO”, or even worse “I don’t have a right to say NO”.

Work life examples:

Focusing on work, and more specifically, hotels, let’s review a few examples:

  • Your shift has finished, but the boss asks you to stay a couple of extra hours (but you already had important personal plans arranged). In this situation, many might feel guilty if they say that they can stay longer. And the boss knows that. And to a certain extent, plays with it. And facing that pressure, many will end up saying YES to the boss, placing first other people’s interests to their own.

Being assertive includes empathising, understanding the other person. And it this example, I understand my boss needs help.  But he must also understand that I have other priorities in my life that are very important too. And if in this occasion, I consider that the top priority is the personal activity, I must let her know.

And when communicating assertively, both verbal and nonverbal are very important: the tone of voice, our body posture, eye contact, listen, speak fluidly,many factors that help deliver our message the best way possible.

It’s not the same saying “erm….well…boss, the thing is that….I….well…I have some stuff and….can’t stay today”, than something like “Boss, I understand you might need me to stay longer. However, I had something already planned with my kids, booked some time ago, therefore I can not stay longer today. What I can offer you is to come early tomorrow morning and review that with you together?”

Apart of the difference in the tone and the words used, what we have done in this case is: empathise, explain the reason why we can not stay longer, and offer an alternative. We are being assertive.

  • Let’s review another example: a member of your team is working lately below par. You can face him upset, telling him “lately, you are really missing deadlines man, you better step up!”. It might sound familiar, but it’s obviously a great mistake when it comes to communication. First, you need on how you can improve it. What about a “John, your work rate seems to have dropped lately, which is unusual in you; I don’t know if you have noticed. Is there anything, any challenge you might be facing, either at work or outside of work, that might be bothering you?; and if that is the case, is there anything we can do for you?”

It seems to sound better. Intonation, empathy. We are not hiding the problem, we are facing it, but with a completely different approach.

  • Let’s go into a last case/example. This time, a guest checking in at a hotel. He arrives early, 10am, and he must queue because at that time, there were guests checking out, which is normal at that time.  Once he is next in line, he demands to check in straight away with very bad manners. This scene happens almost daily in many hotels.

In many cases, the receptionist falls into the trap, and his answer is “Apologies Mr XYZ for keeping you waiting. I’ll make sure I have your room ready right now”. He will then call Housekeeping quickly to rush them and get that room ready asap. Well, that’s wrong.

Think on the answer you could provide given what we’ve reviewed so far. First, we don’t necessarily need to start with an apology. Instead, we will thank him for his time “Mr XYZ, welcome to the ABC Hotel, it’s a pleasure to have you here with us, and thank you for your time while you were waiting. What can I do for you?”. Now, to start with, we change the guest’s perception. Let’s try to avoid that apologetic language that tends to be overused in the service industry.

After that, we could tell him “I understand you’ve arrived early, and you want to check in asap. However, the Hotel is almost full and, as you might be aware, check in time is 3pm”.

I hope the difference in the answers is clear. From that moment onwards, we can opt for offering this guest to take a seat, have a welcome drink, an upsell or an additional early check in fee; that will all depend on the internal hotel policy in that sense, and the chances they see on generating extra revenue.

Assertiveness to improve situations

As I was saying before, assertiveness can not be applied always. Let’s consider the consequences, let’s analyse if applying that approach is beneficial. But what’s clear is that, once we’ve introduced this approach in our daily life, and the way we interact with others, we’ll see the benefits very soon, and it will clearly help us improve situations.

#asertividad #hoteles #ahoraturismo #torresconsulting #onehospitality #assertiveness

Pablo Torres

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