& HR - How to Be Assertive?
Is saying “no” to
someone wrong? I have asked this question to myself innumerable
times in the past 7 years in my tenure as a HR professional; because
that’s how a few of my colleagues had made me feel. In the past
decade, there was a myth that a HR professional being a people’s
person, should be nice to them and always behave in a pleasing way
etc. But that does not definitely mean you can’t say no to someone.
I previously worked
in an environment where all my colleagues from the HR team used
to listen to all employees’ queries and say ‘yes’ to everything,
even to their unreasonable requests. There were a lot of situations
were none of their requests could be honored but still my colleagues
would happily tell them ”Yes we will do that.” But once the employee
was out of our cabin, they would say “Oh, just forget it.” But
why can’t they say ‘No’ to that employee? When I asked them
this question, they said, “We have to be nice to people as we are
in HR, so say yes for now, we can say something later when they
come in again.” I was shocked at such a response from my senior
colleague who had worked in HR for an MNC before.
It was since then that I have always
wanted to share my views on the topic of Assertiveness. People consider
assertiveness as a Taboo at office, especially in HR. But I
had the habit of approaching the employees with an assertive way
of communication and explaining to them politely why their request
cannot be considered. By being honest with them, we could at least
be assured that the employee/s would not have false hopes and get
is the ability to express oneself while respecting and taking
others’ feelings and rights into account. People who communicate
assertively are not mean or obnoxious. They do not step
on the feelings of others to get what they want, as is the
case with aggressive communication.
communication involves expressing your feelings or reasons
or needs or desires in a polite and non-judgemental way.
Assertive communication is also considered helpful to others,
because you are giving clear information about what you can
and cannot and why so.
is not just about saying ‘no’, but it is also about the way
that a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ message is conveyed. Many people who
resort to 'unassertive' approach recognize that their pattern
of behaviour is to be nice or compliant for far longer than
they really want to until they reach the saturation point,
where they could no longer hold it in; and react inappropriately
which is more like an outburst and gives the onlookers a wrong
to be Assertive?
To be an assertive communicator,
the basics are to be confident and adopt a non-judgemental approach
towards people and issues at hand.
- Listen actively without interrupting
- Empathize with the speaker
- Ask open-ended questions to understand
the expectations and requirements of the speaker
- Analyze the request or grievance
expressed by the speaker and check if it is reasonable
- Express your feelings clearly
with ‘I’ statements – ‘I feel’, ‘I see’, ‘I hear’, ‘I realize’
- State your views and suggestions
clearly, politely and appropriate to the situation
- If the speaker’s request
has to be denied, ensure that you explain the reason for
declining the request
- Provide alternate suggestions
or ideas that will help the speaker and encourage them to
explore other feasible options to resolve the issue
- To ensure understanding
from both the sides summarize the conversation with emphasis
on the solution or options available
and Body Language
Body Language or Non-verbal
Communication plays an important role in communicating assertively.
- Stand erect, face the speaker
and maintain good eye contact while you speak
- Have a relaxed body posture
- Speak calmly in an appropriate
- Be courteous always and
smile if appropriate to the situation
- Speak coherently with confidence
Remember that you
can always be nice and sound nice to people even if you say ‘No’
as it all depends on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ you say it.
Writer: Sangeetha Lal works as an Assistant
Manager - HR for R Systems International Ltd., a CMM Level 5 IT
Company in Chennai. firstname.lastname@example.org