How to be assertive with your boss

boss gorilla picture

How to be assertive with your boss? Below we’ll give you advice on how to gain respect and particularly how to gain their acknowledgement of your efforts. Your boss may be easily accessible but not very communicative or they may be located a million miles away but very approachable.

Just because someone has been appointed manager it doesn’t mean that they are well suited to the role. Some managers find it difficult to make decisions and take risks, whilst others are natural born leaders. What ever type of boss you have, there are some tools and techniques to use to ensure that you get the most from the working relationship with your boss.

However, no amount of technique will bolster up a flagging relationship with your boss; you need to build up goodwill between the two of you over weeks and months. One way you could think about this is to imagine you were the boss what would you want from someone like yourself? i.e. most bosses don’t like unpleasant surprises, they like to be kept informed. Do you keep them informed?

Follow these steps to give yourself the best possible chance of having a great relationship  with your boss:

Step 1

Repeat the following to yourself in order to be assertive with your boss

‘I can show them I care about the business and explain that I want to get things right’

‘I can ask them what they think I’m doing well and what I need to improve on?’

‘I can ask them to be specific rather than accept general comments’

‘I can ask them for regular one: one review meetings’

‘I can ask them for the support I need and give them as much notice as possible’

Step 2

The following list of Rights will give you the confidence you need to be assertive with your boss. Read them through twice.

I have the right to ask for feedback on my performance 

I have the right to know what are the standards of performance 

I have the right to express my views which may be different to others 

I have the right to be human and make mistakes and learn from them 

I have the right to refuse unreasonable requests 

I have the right to think before I answer 

I have the right to support from others in order to perform my job role well 

I have the right to a decision on something that effects me

Then choose the one right that you want to give yourself most – because if you do it will give you permission to be assertive with your boss.

Step Three

Below is a list of verbal and non verbal tips to enable your assertion.

Non Verbal Tips

Smile when greeting your boss

Make eye contact with them

Use their name

Keep a relaxed, open facial expression

When asking a question maintain an upright position

When answering a question take your time, nod thoughtfully before you respond

End your sentences in a lower tone of voice

Verbal Tips

1. Prepare open questions on issues you think will be discussed  i.e. “How do you think I can do this differently?’

or  “What leads you to believe that would work better?”

2. Look for opportunities to test your understanding i.e. “Are you saying that ….” or “Is this how you see it……”

3. If you feel you’re not getting the opportunity to make you point of view, signal your intention e.g. ‘Would you like to hear my view on that?” or “I’d like to make a comment about that”

4. Use a Verbal Handshake when appropriate i.e.

Mike I appreciate that you’ve been doing lots of travelling during these last few weeks and that you’ve haven’t had a moment to yourself.  Can you see that I’ve been coping on my own without any clear direction and that what I need most is to schedule some regular one:one time with you?

5. Use language that shows you’re looking for a win:win, i.e.

 ‘Once I have been shown how I configure the start, I am sure I will be competent at doing the work and produce a good result.’

6. When you think you need to stand your ground use the No Sandwich…

‘I can understand you want me to negotiate different pricing with this client because of what the competition are doing

No. I believe if we do this they may switch suppliers and their service revenue is too important to us. How about we look at some alternatives?

7. Place emphasis on what you’re going to do i.e.  ‘I’ll collect all the evidence you need to get the boards approval’

Choose 2 or 3 Behavioural Tips from this list that you believe will work for you. Write them down and place them where they’ll be a continual reminder for you of how to be assertive with your boss.

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc

3 Responses to “How to be assertive with your boss”

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  1. loved the teenage tips on assertiveness – they are the difficult ones!

  2. Subhash Muneshwar says:

    I like the win:win approach. Bosses can often be wary of their subordinates trying to outsmart them but this win win approach will certainly allay their fears if any.Good advice.

  3. Ray Benitez says:

    For me this is an amazing reminder of being a leader / follower. As the bible says ” Do onto yourself as you would do unto others”.

    I build as I read. I congratulate myself when my reading confirms my action in my leadership skills.

    Thank You

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