Category Archives: Assertiveness Skills

Supporting Your Boss Effectively

(For ease of reading in this article, I have used the masculine gender pronoun to refer to the boss. This in no way implies that bosses are predominantly men.)

Working With a Boss Who Withholds Information

A friend recently lamented to me that her boss seems unwilling to share information with her.

She would be the last to know about projects and updates. It was also humiliating to hear the latest news about her own department from colleagues in other departments.

Of course, your boss is not obliged to tell you everything that is going on. However, if by not telling you, it negatively affects the way you perform the job, you must deal with it.

Here are some ways to manage this:

  • Gather evidence. Don’t just complain vaguely to your boss. Have some concrete evidence of actual pieces of information that you did not receive from him (when you should have).
  • Explain clearly why the withholding of information bothered or affected you. Just being dissatisfied, for example, is not going to convince your boss that it is important. Tell him how it affected your morale, made you waste more time, or affected your productivity.
  • Emphasise the positives. Instead of just stating the negatives, tell him some positive consequences of sharing the information with you.
  • Show your enthusiasm about projects by asking to be given information.
Working With a Boss Who Doesn’t Seem to Like You

Another friend had some concerns that her boss did not seem to like her. She felt that he would avoid talking to her, and if he had to, he would be curt and cold.

Your boss does not have to like you, but he must respect you and the work that you do.

However, work will be a lot more pleasant if your boss likes you. Try to find out what he doesn’t like about you (but the answer could be hard to take).

It is awkward to ask outright why the boss doesn’t like you. It may be easier to ask if there is anything you are doing (or not doing) that he would prefer to be different.

The best time to ask this would be at your annual appraisal. However, if that is a long time away, then you may need to ask to speak with the boss privately.

And sometimes, you may just have to accept that you and the boss have a personality clash, and he is never going to like you. But he must respect you and the work you do.

Why Figure Out How to Support Your Boss?

Your working relationship with your boss could be the most important one at the workplace. If this relationship is weak or negative, it could lead to dissatisfaction, frustration, stress, and below-expectation performance.

Sometimes, speaking to your boss about your feelings and concerns could be the best way to deal with issues with your boss.

At other times, it may be worth your while to analyse and understand your boss’ work preferences and leadership style, and try to work with this understanding.

Is Your Thinking Causing You Stress?

You cannot totally avoid stress at the workplace.

Some amount of stress is necessary to motivate you; however, being overwhelmingly stressed can have negative effects on your mental and physical health.

If you constantly feel stressed, examine your own thinking. Do you need to change your own paradigm?

Here are some thinking errors that can lead to stress:

(1) You have an “all-or-nothing” mindset.


Re-evaluate the importance of tasks or their components. Strategise and focus on the most crucial ones.

Be realistic about what you can and cannot do in a finite amount of time with a finite amount of resources.

(2) You tend to magnify the consequences of situations.


In the process, you make yourself worried and panicky.

Stop torturing yourself! Use logical thinking to analyse the situation. If you are really worried, talk to the people involved to find out more.

(3) You tend to focus on the negative.


If negative thoughts are keeping you up at night, you have to make a conscious effort to think positively.

(4) You believe that you can read other people’s minds.


No you can’t.

You don’t know why your boss did not assign that job to you – without asking. You don’t know why your colleague did not return your greeting this morning – without asking.

Ask. There may be a simple reason.

“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.”

– Hans Selye (Hungarian researcher of stress and its effects on the human body)

Are You Assertive? Three Quick Ways to Check.

Have you ever had a disagreement with a colleague, and you were not happy with how you handled the situation? Maybe you were too meek, too apologetic, or too aggressive?

Would you like to be able to handle disagreements, conflict, or unreasonable requests assertively? What does being assertive even mean?

Here are three quick ways to check if you are assertive in handling conflict:

(1) Do you let the other person know clearly how you feel?

It is easy to say “I don’t agree” or “I may not be able to help you”, but to be assertive, you need to be more precise.

Say how you feel. Here are some examples:

  • I am not willing to type this report because it needs more commitment than I can offer, and it is not really my responsibility.
  • I am not comfortable signing this proposal, as it contains some inaccuracies.
  • I prefer not to be involved in this discussion, as I feel it is not appropriate until we get more details about the situation.

Do not assume that other people know how you feel. To avoid ambiguity, tell them respectfully.

(2) Do you focus on the issue rather than the person?

When dealing with workplace conflict, focus on the issue. This leads to problem solving.

Here are some examples:

  • You are causing a delay in our month-end closing again with your late report. (focus is on the person)
  • Your report is late, and this is causing a delay in our month-end closing again. (focus is on the issue)
  • You always assign work to me at the last minute. There is simply no time to get it done. (focus is on the person)
  • I need more time to get the work done, but when it is assigned to me at the last minute, it is difficult for me. (focus is on the issue)

If you focus on the person, it is likely to lead to blaming and unhappiness.

(3) Do you try to preserve the relationship?

There is a clear difference between being assertive and being aggressive.

Being assertive means you deal with a conflict situation while preserving the respect and dignity of all parties involved. In other words, you are mindful of how the other person might feel, and you do not say or do things that may jeopardise the relationship.

Being aggressive means you only take care of your own feelings and needs. You do not care about how the other person might feel.

Here are some examples:

  • Your minutes are terrible. Are you even trained to do this? It is not my job to teach you how to write these minutes! (aggressive)
  • Your minutes do not capture all the discussion points clearly. Do you think some training might help? You could approach HR to discuss this if necessary. (assertive)

Being assertive leads to more positive outcomes. It will certainly reduce the risk of damaging the relationship, which will likely lead to distrust and more conflict.