{May 13, 2011}   How to Be Just Assertive Enough

How to Be Just Assertive Enough

by Kellye Whitney | Talent Management

In order to be a good boss, it’s important for managers to learn to be assertive, but not so assertive that one becomes unbearable or unapproachable. Adapted from Robert Sutton’s Good Boss, Bad Boss, here are a few tricks managers can use to help them take charge of their direct reports or gain influence in a crowd without crossing the line into bad boss territory.

1. Talk more than others – but not all the time.

This is sometimes called the blabbermouth theory of leadership where people who talk first and most often are viewed as influential. A manager should not dominate all conversations or risk being viewed as a bully.

2. Interrupt people occasionally.

People gain power by winning interruption wars, interjecting and battling back when others try to interrupt. Managers should interrupt occasionally if needed to keep a group on task or to remind employees who holds the final word, but avoid being interrupted themselves.

3. Be cognizant of physical presence.

For instance, when people cross their arms, they often persist in an argument longer and generate more solutions. Crossing the arms boosts confidence, but over doing it can come off as uptight or unapproachable.

4. Flash anger now and then.

Studies by Stanford professor Larissa Tiedens showed using anger strategically gives the impression that the expresser is competent. But constant anger can undermine a manager’s authority and likely will earn that individual a reputation as a jerk.

5. Not sure whether to sit down or stand up? Stand up.

This is especially important for a new boss. Standing up signals to the group who is in charge and encourages others to accept that individuals’ authority. A manager should position himself or herself at the head of the table to cement that authority.

6. Ask direct reports what they need to succeed, then give it to them.

This may seem like an obvious management tactic, but it’s rarely done. If it’s not possible to meet all of an employee’s requests, meet some of them. Make an effort.

7. Share pet peeves and quirks.

New bosses should write a “Managerial User’s Manual” for a team identifying his or her preferences, work and communication style, anger triggers and things that may otherwise by mysterious or unclear.

8. Give away power or status sometimes, but be sure everyone knows it was a deliberate choice.

A manager can show that he or she is powerful by accepting or even bargaining for some status symbol and then giving it away.


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