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FEAR. Fear is one of the biggest hurdles in life. The apprehension of the unknown will stop almost anyone in their tracks. Sometimes, fear is of a protective nature, keeping a person from making unwise decisions. Other times, it is a negative attribute, keeping an individual from seeking positive experiences or pursuing advancements in their chosen profession.

There are various levels of fear. One of these levels is lack of assertiveness. Though assertiveness has both positive and negative aspects, a person with a decisive nature and a firm resolve can be an attribute for a better quality of life or work performance. These individuals who affect their environment for the benefit of all are assets to their team, family, and employers.

It is when fear affects assertiveness that it becomes a detriment. The inability to speak up and bring attention to issues that may need improvement or have safety concerns is one instance where hesitation can be especially harmful. The lack of assertiveness creates life-threatening problems when key observations are not documented and addressed with the correct personnel.

There are several factors that lead to lack of assertiveness. Often, when a person has low self-esteem, they will make choices that cause the least resistance. Any suggestion for improvement will be viewed as an adverse comment or a slight on the individual, who continually sees themselves in a negative light.

Managers and leaders who can foster an environment that welcomes suggestions take worker’s views seriously and listen to concerns fully before making a comment. Having an open-door policy removes the sigma that makes employees believe that a leader is unapproachable. Using this tool will foster a safe and cohesive workplace. Also, giving unsolicited votes of confidence or attaboy praise for both small and large accomplishments will build self-confidence in a person with negative self-esteem. In turn, subordinates will feel at ease to speak their minds if they know that they will not be judged. Then, the doors of communication will be unhampered.

Below is a list of some ways to build confidence in yourself and others and to become more assertive:

  • Give positive verbal recognition to subordinates for quality work and principles that lead to open communication.
  • Take interest in subordinates’ hobbies, work, life, and personal concerns. This should be done within professional boundaries.
  • Find common ground to establish discussions.
  • Ask direct and open-ended questions to facilitate feedback.
  • Cultivate confidence through regular performance interviews, individual/team reviews, and written/oral reports.

By helping others to reduce or eliminate their lack of assertiveness, you can help develop the knowledge and the confidence that you have their best interest first.