I have a professional pet peeve. This pet peeve negatively impacts woman and minorities at work all the time. It is used to devalue meaningful contributions in meetings. It is so pervasive it holds people in all professions back from feeling valued and empowered in their workplace.
It’s the misunderstanding between what is assertive, and what is aggressive, communication.
Those two words tend to be used interchangeably, often implying through tone of voice (rather than choice of words) what the speaker means; “Well, she was assertive in the meeting today!”. Confusing? Very.
I work with very talented professionals every day, and this comes up a lot, particularly when we explore the benefits assertiveness has to offer at work. Immediately I get a quick reaction: “Oh, I don’t like to interrupt others in meetings!”. Or “I don’t want to be egotistical [pushy, harsh, brash, insistent, etc.], I don’t like it when others do that to me.”
I love the conscious awareness, please keep that, but there is a balancing act between being respectful and being nice. You want to aim for respectful, because in organizations, nice people often do “finish last” (as the saying goes).
Being assertive, and being aggressive are two completely different things, but I understand why there is confusion. Beyond the fact we treat those words like they both mean the same thing – which they don’t - they share a lot of the same characteristics.
Both assertive and aggressive communication use interruption, both are clear about what the speaker wants, and both create awkwardness.
Let’s break that down:
Assertiveness plays a huge role in your personal empowerment and career impact, but it is one of the least practiced tools in our organizations today because of the confusion between assertion and aggression.
So, here is your call to action: start powerful conversations on the differences between assertive and aggressive communication where you work (and if that feels like too far a reach, start by having these conversations at home). This is an important dialogue we need to have at work, bringing understanding and opportunity to have better discussions, which empower stronger outcomes, while building everyone’s confidence. Win/win/win.
And that is the biggest difference between assertive and aggressive communication. With assertive communication, everyone wins.
To support this powerful conversation where you work, share this infographic as a starting point.
I had an interesting conversation the other day with someone struggling with her current role. She knew she needed a change, but also remarked many times during our conversation that “I should be happy here.”
On the surface her job was a great fit for her. She had flexible working hours, and really enjoyed the people with whom she was working, but there was something missing. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
She was able to get in touch with it through our conversation, recognizing that she had changed a lot over the last five years, and her job had not. She had outgrown many of her tasks, but was afraid of inviting chaos into her life by seeking out bigger assignments and more accountability.
She just didn’t see how she could have the type of work she wanted AND keep balance in her life. She truly believed that to take more on, she would have to sacrifice something she valued.
Hot Tip #1, you never have to trade what you need for what you want in your career
Another client I spoke to knew he needed to move up or out of his current job, but with the uncertainties of COVID he didn’t think now was a good time to change jobs (within his current company or to another). He didn’t know how to virtually build the relationships he would need to do well at his next job.
He also mentioned several times how grateful he was to have a good job. He said it in a wistful way that implied if it were a crap job it’d be easier to make the decision he needs to for his career wellbeing.
Hot tip #2, career change isn’t always comfortable, but it doesn’t have to be excruciating
Have you had similar thoughts lately?
It’s difficult to consider leaving a role that suits you really well (or leave a great employer). In fact, you may not have to. It’s intimidating to think you may have to leave your comfort zone to get more of what you want, but there are options that support change without sabotaging what you have today.
Here are some things to think about if you are putting off your career growth needs with “I should be happy” thinking:
Gratitude is important, but when it becomes a reason not to make a change you need, it’s no longer gratitude. There will always be reasons to stay where you are that make good sense, but if you are not happy then that needs to become your priority.
You don’t have to rush into anything you are not comfortable doing, and there are advantages to sitting back and seeing what it is you want to do with your one precious life before jumping into change.
You only get to go on this ride once, make it count.
I had a client ask me the other day what a made a career a “dream career”? Great question, “dream” is a very powerful word, and it means different things to different people.
A dream career is being able to have meaningful work in your profession for an employer who respects you and invests in your potential (or being able to get that kind of work elsewhere whenever you need to).
It all starts with where you work right now and how healthy your current job is for you. It’s not something you likely stopped to think about as you were getting set up in your professional life.
But knowing what makes a job healthy for you is a very important, especially as we move forward into the “new normal” post-pandemic.
So, how is your relationship with your job? Find out using these 8 signs of a healthy job:
Dream careers don’t just happen. Just as with any worthwhile relationship, it’s something you have to work on every day. No one’s career is perfect, but your career can be meaningful and contribute to your healthy lifestyle.
One of the biggest complaints I hear from clients who work from home are the lack of boundaries between home and work. It’s an important topic as you consider how you want to work and live when we emerge from the pandemic.
It’s great to be able to work from your patio or deck (or the cottage) during the summer, but it also “pollutes” those spaces. Rather than getting the relaxation vibe at work, you may accidentally end up creating a work vibe in your relaxation space. Not cool.
You deserve to enjoy the beautiful spaces you’ve created in your home and life. Decks, patios, gardens, balconies, etc. all benefit from seasonal spruce-ups (if not redecorating… or am I the only one watching videos on how to design your outdoor living space...).
Being able to create these kinds of sanctuaries is one of the reasons you work so hard, but they are useless when you don’t have time to enjoy them. I LOVE sitting on my deck in the shade, hearing the wind rustling the leaves of the maples we planted with just this scenario in mind. Our back deck has been a labour of love, and now (many years later), it has changed from a barren sun-burnt lawn to an oasis of calm where I like to spend as much time as I can. But working from it? There is a fine line between living to work and working to live and my deck is the boundary.
So, how do you enjoy the benefits of working from home and keep your sanctuary too?
Here are some strategies to consider:
Of course, the best way to ensure working from home doesn’t become working for your employer for an extra10-40 hours a week …for free… is to set (and keep) regular office hours. It also helps to have a routine for leaving your work space that includes shutting it all down (or closing the door on it). Hearing audible notifications going off is the biggest cause of boundary bleed between work time and home time – the very definition of noise pollution!
You work hard for many reasons, having a lovely home environment is likely one of them. But, it’s no good to you if you can’t enjoy it. Working from home without boundaries can contribute to upsetting a space that was designed to give you sanctuary. Working from home has a lot of benefits, but it means you need to be a good guardian of your time, allowing you to enjoy both.
Things are getting a little more normal every day. Vaccinations and staged re-openings are signalling both the end of the pandemic and it messing with your daily life. And possibly signalling the end of the way you’ve been working for the past 16 months.
The pandemic has been horrific for many, and I wouldn’t wish it to continue or re-occur. However, there have been some welcome changes that I hope stick around long after the pandemic is gone. Changes like no more waiting for my appointment at my doctor’s office and a continuation of seeing families doing more things, like hiking, cycling, and generally spending more quality time together.
There is a reason you can’t easily buy the bike you want on-line or get a puppy right now, there is high demand because along with masks and physical distancing we’ve also embraced what it means to be able to spend more time doing things we enjoy with loved ones. And a lot of us really like this welcome change in our schedules. So much so, the thought of going back to work the way things were may have you wondering if you want to stay in your current job.
NPR (National Public Radio) recently published an article on exactly this topic referencing “the great resignation”, citing an unprecedented occurrence, high unemployment in the US AND a labour shortage, which is happening because many people are considering whether they want to go back to their previous roles, and opting for change. While restaurant and retail workers are leading the charge, many other professionals are also taking a deep look at whether or not going back to the way things were (even with a hybrid model) is what they want.
Are you one of them?
Going back to normal may mean a return to a hectic travel schedule that lost its appeal, or back to working with more rigidity, in some cases with high demands as organizations push to make up any pandemic shortfall in earnings.
Need help to decide whether you want to stay in your current role or join the great resignation? Here are some things to consider to help you see if you need to move on:
Getting to the bottom of things BEFORE you hand in your resignation is key – you’re in a much stronger bargaining position when you have a clear picture of what needs to change, and how to change it (at your current job or the next). If you don’t have that plan, you risk leaping “from the frying pan into the fire”. Book a complimentary Career Strategy Session with me today to get your plan started, so you can make great career decisions that support the working life you deserve.
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ABOUT MY BLOG
I believe in empowering others in many tangible ways. When I learn new career strategies or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website.