Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Quote of the Day

"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."

— Wayne Dyer: Self-development author and speaker

Being Assertive: Part 2

Let's continue with the assertive stuff shall we? Let's talk about how to be assertive.

Use assertive body language.
Face the bully and look him or her square in the eye. Do this with a pleasant face, but serious expression. Keep your voice very calm. Stand with your hands on your hips or lean in a little bit while you talk. Do not fold your arms or look down. If you're sitting down, do not cross your legs. Keep both feet on the floor, toes pointed straight out in front of you.

Use a Stop Sign.
When the bully turns on you, and begins to put you down, use a stop sign. Say something like, "Now let's stop here for a minute. What just happened? You are raising your voice at me and I am not certain why." or "Whoa! Is there a reason you are talking down to me like that?" If they don't cool down, and continue to keep a raised voice or condescending tone, then say, "I can see you are awfully upset. I am happy to discuss this with you later when you've calmed down. Are you available later today?"

Use "I" strategically.
When speaking with the bully, keep focused on yourself and your confidence in what you have to say. Example: "I can have the report to you by end of business Tues" instead of, "When do you want the report?" This leaves the bully less opportunity to pick on you, because you've already stated what you can deliver and when. End of story.

Avoid battlephrases.
Avoid saying things like, "He makes me feel bad about myself. He is hurting my feelings." The reality is that you have a choice in the matter - so he isn't doing anything to you. Start saying, "I feel bad about myself" and "My feelings are really hurt." Then see how empowered you feel. You will start to understand your feelings are yours to conquer, and then it becomes easier to change them.

Remember, assertiveness is the belief that if you do something in a certain way, it will work. So gather up that confidence of yours and give some of these things a try. Once you become comfortable, these behaviors will become regular habits, and you'll be feeling much more confident about the situation you are in.

You can handle it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Being Assertive

A woman approached me after one of my recent workplace bully workshops to tell me about her experiences being bullied at work. After working in her school district for over 20 years, her last 3 years have been miserable thanks to a new boss. The new boss has begun giving the woman who approached me very low performance reviews, despite over 20 years of really good reviews, promotions and raises. The new boss is essentially using the annual employee reviews as a venue for bullying.

Thus far, the woman hasn’t said anything to her new bullying boss, but has reported the incidences to her union. The union has indicated they will refrain from taking any action until she brings the issue to the attention of HR. And she hasn’t done that because she fears the repercussions. She is also scared of her boss, and perhaps rightfully so.

But not addressing the issue directly with the boss is a problem. I recommended that she try to be more assertive.

Assertiveness is the ability to honestly express your opinions, feelings, attitudes and rights without stepping on other people’s toes. It’s not aggressiveness – that would make you a bully. But it’s not being a doormat either.

Assertiveness is dependent upon feeling good about yourself and a sense that your behavior will produce the results you are seeking. Therefore it requires confidence, along with the following three parts: a) validation, b) statement of problem, and c) statement of solution.

a) Validation refers to showing your understanding of the other person.

For example, saying something like, “I understand you believe my performance is below par” will acknowledge the bully’s point of view, even if you disagree with it. But remember he or she is seeking power, so dismissing the bully’s opinions may not be the answer either.

b) Statement of problem describes your difficulty or dissatisfaction, and explains why something needs to change.

For example, “But when you write these negative things on my performance review without providing any real tangible evidence of their existence it hurts our working relationship and my ability to continue to produce satisfactory work for you.”

c) Statement of solution provides a specific request for a specific change in the other person’s behavior.

For example, “I have received over 20 years of positive and even raving reviews, so clearly there is a disconnect in our relationship, because all of a sudden the reviews I receive from you are not so positive. I believe I continue to be a fantastic contributing employee, so your reviews concern me. From now on, I expect that we will work together on any of the areas you feel need improvement. So when are you free to meet with me to discuss your review in greater detail and provide tangible goals for me to reach? And by the way, I will be bringing another co-worker with me to the meeting just to sit in and listen.”

From here, you’ve cornered him or her into having to take a meeting with you. As scared as you might be to attend that meeting, this is what standing up for yourself is all about. Bring a co-worker, as is your right, so the bully is less inclined to use that behavior during the meeting. If the bullying does come out, now you’ve got a witness. This guest’s role should simply be to sit in the corner and listen. They should not say anything at all.

If the bullying boss will not take a meeting with you, send a few emails attempting to schedule it. If still no response, then send an email to HR indicating that you’d like to work on your performance, but can’t get a meeting with your boss to discuss performance goals.

Remember, bullies pick on everyone, but they single out the people that allow the bullying to occur. Start demonstrating you’re not okay with being treated that way by serving your self-confidence up to him or her on a silver platter. Mrs Roosevelt had it right when she said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."