Honest, genuine and authentic communication has been reported as the number one communication trait required for effective leadership. However, a common pattern in people’s communication, particularly women, is a lack of awareness and capacity to be assertive. Assertive communication will help you reduce workplace conflict, help you to negotiate, speak up at meetings and deal with difficult conversations. In turn, these skills will enhance your self-esteem, increase your confidence and reduce your fear and anxiety.
Sheryl Sandburg is a great advocate for women in leadership and in her book, Lean In states that she is looking forward to a future where there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.
Australia has some way to go and recent research from the Australian Workplace Gender Agency Report shows that only 25% of leadership positions are held by women. Yet Australian companies and business say they want more women on boards and in leadership positions. However, I meet women on a daily basis who don’t feel confident to take on leadership roles. They find it difficult to speak up in management meetings, they lack confidence, will often avoid difficult conversations and avoid saying no.
There is a cost to business and the employer when women are not able to be assertive and confident in their workplace communication. These costs include
1. The employee will hold back and not express their opinions or ideas.
2. They will be reluctant to ask questions and negotiate solutions.
3. They will avoid taking ownership and credit for their contributions.
4. They will be agreeable at team meetings so as not attract attention as they don’t like conflict.
5. They will be reluctant to give honest feedback as they don’t want to hurt or offend.
6. They will avoid taking ownership so as to protect themselves from criticism.
7. They will avoid giving and receiving feedback.
Women who are not assertive are at risk of:
1. Being overlooked for promotions and not reaching their potential
2. Losing their confidence and this in turn, will negatively impact on the team’s productivity.
3. Of developing anxiety and depression because they are not expressing their feelings and needs.
The bottom line is for women to be taken seriously and to move easily into leadership roles we need to be honest, authentic and assertive in our communication. If we want a healthy and productive workplace women need to learn to be more assertive. How assertive and honest are you in your workplace communications?
If any women want to work on becoming more assertive come along to my Assertiveness for Women Workplace Workshop on 10th March in Perth.
Violet Dhu is a consultant with Corporate Communication Experts