Are your Team Members assertive or aggressive?
Ambition, when expressed through confidence and competence, is assertiveness. When an employee feels threatened, he or she can express themselves as being aggressive. And aggressive team members can hurt productivity. It upsets the harmony of the team; shutting down communication–which is how this problem directly impacts productivity.
What’s the difference?
You might be wondering what the difference is in a normal conversation. Assertive or aggressive behavior often comes out in a meeting when an employee is trying to prove their worth. If you’re the boss, such a meeting is one of the best ways to see who is assertive and who is aggressive. When an employee tries to prove their worth, they inadvertently show you more of who they are in these situations.
Aggressive: An aggressive team member is usually acting out of concern for their present and future. They’re trying to “WOW” the boss, but they feel like the only way to make themselves look good is by making everyone else (their competition) look BAD by comparison.
An aggressive employee may worry that they’re going to lose their job, or be passed up for a promotion or a raise. They may be facing issues in their personal lives that make them feel they are not in control. Perceiving a lack of control brings panic. Although panicking does not tend to bring good results (and usually creates a self-fulfilling prophecy), such worry tends to make one behave irrationally. This chaotic, low-level energy causes one to sabotage their career.
The aggressive employee is more self-centered and less team-oriented. There’s a (likely unintentional) lack of respect for others, and it shows.
The following is an example of how aggressiveness looks in a meeting:
“I have this great new idea to change our widget processing because current procedures really aren’t very efficient. I can?t see why we didn’t switch to XYZ procedures when a few of our competitors made the change a few years ago. It really makes us look behind the times.”
The employee isn’t relying on facts or even showing that they’ve done much research. They realize their argument isn’t strong, so they are instead relying on putting down the current plans. The aggressive employee probably doesn’t realize the person who set up the current plans may be the boss or someone else who is still in the company. Not a great way to make friends! This type of pushy behavior causes bad feelings within the team, which hurts productivity.
Assertive: Assertive workers are an asset;they have good ideas and work well with others. They are confident and competent. They’re not passive, but they don’t feel the need to put others down in order to make themselves look good. An example of how an assertive employee tries to show the boss that they have a new idea that could save the company money:
“Since some of our competitors switched to XYZ procedures, I researched our current processing needs in order to find efficiencies. And I have good news: I have found significant cost-saving strategies. An update using XYZ procedures could save money because equipment updates would be minimal; training costs would be negligible because the update would allow us to skip one of the steps we’ve been using, and it could save processing time by 1.2 minutes per unit! The deleted step could reduce errors by 15%. It would also increase production capacity by an extra 8,000 units per month. With increased productivity and lower production costs, I’m sure it would help our bottom line.”
The assertive employee lets facts make their point. They let their own work speak for itself. At no time did the assertive employee have to resort to insulting other employees or current procedures. The assertive employee does not feel threatened and is non-threatening to others. They’re operating from a higher energy level which sets the tone for a cooperative team, which will be more productive.
Notice the big difference in the respect shown to others between the aggressive and assertive employee examples. The element of respect is missing in aggression, but it’s present in assertiveness. The aggressive employee is thinking primarily of themselves; they feel threatened so they’re in “survival mode”. The assertive employee doesn’t feel the need to attack others as they’re not worried about surviving; they’re thriving.
What should I do?
The employee is the one who must choose how they will behave. This could leave you to wonder what role you play as the boss as it relates to their choices.
If your employee is acting like the aggressive example, it’s likely that they could find it easier to change their behavior with some reassurance of their future at the company. When an employee feels valued, they won’t feel as though they need to prove themselves in such a frantic way.
It could take as little as 5-10 minutes for a personal chat to ask your employee about their opinions or how they feel about the way their work is being recognized. This changes the conversation and instead of trying to prove themselves, the employee can focus on positive aspects of their work, rather than the worrying, negative energy that has fueled their bad interactions with others.
Your employee most likely has at least one good characteristic or something you’d like to encourage. It’s easier to encourage someone to continue to do something they’re doing well than to make them perform a task they don’t do well. A proper response to the aggressive employee from the previous example would be:
“Ted, you mentioned an interest in shifting to XYZ procedures. We would be able to consider it if we could get some estimates on equipment and training costs, projected errors, processing time, and estimated increase in production units per month. If you need help from another department or team member to get those figures, let me know. You can give us a presentation at the next meeting.”
Showing faith in an employee and an interest in their ideas can go a long way.
A workshop by INSPIRE on communication skills can help your team as well.
For more help with communication and productivity, contact INSPIRE at 317-842-8881 today.