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How do you balance assertiveness with friendliness at work?(7 Posts)
I'm starting a new job next week and I really want to start off on the right foot.
I've struggled with confidence all my life and in previous jobs I've realized that people see kind/mild mannered/quiet people as easy targets. No one has outright bullied me but people have taken advantage - I've ended up doing other people's jobs as well as my own/unpaid over time/covering shifts when it wasn't convenient and generally just treated like a child. I look a lot younger than I am and as soon as I start a new role, people immediately treat me like a child (despite the fact that I have 2 university degrees and a truck load of experience). The last role I started, the receptionist ask me if I was the work experience girl (who walked in about 5 mins later and looked about 10 years older).
In my last role I decided to be more assertive, but since I'm used to people walking over me I think I was quite defensive and was sensitive to any kind of behavior that undermined or took advantage of me - I didn't make friends.
So I guess I'm asking...is it possible to be confident/assertive and have friends at work? I'm trying to hit the right balance but part of me thinks I would rather have no friends at work that be treated like a mug for the rest of my working life.
For context I'm late 20's and in my industry most people are older.
Personally I have no desire whatsoever to make friends at work, in fact I go to work with the assumption that colleagues are not meant to be friends. They can however be people you treat with respect, and understand they (like you) have their personal agenda at work, invariably to get their job done and add value (that's a basic assumption smoothing out any badly behaved people, who will always be problematic no matter what).
The problem I see on here time and again is where people feel that they have to make lots of friends at work, then the boundaries become difficult to navigate, for example in your example, where you need to politely push back on having work dumped on you, it's difficult when you were down the pub with the same colleague on Saturday night.
is it possible to be confident/assertive and have friends at work
It's totally possible to be assertive and have friends but you need to be firm with yourself about your priorities. It sounds like you have some internal conflict to deal with first? If you're not clear yourself, you can't expect others to be clear either.
My absolute priority is do my job. That may mean upsetting people or not doing what they want at times (often a lot of the time in my role!) but my priority is to get my job done, to the quality required, within the time expected....or better and faster preferably. I had 3 complaints within 3 months of starting my job. All because people didn't like what I was doing as it upset their status quo. I was lucky because my boss backed me (and so did his boss, and the big boss above) and knows I'm doing what needs to be done. Those 3 people are now onside but admittedly one of them steers relatively clear of me. The other 2 'complainees' are now 2 of my most trusted advisors and we laugh about our initial conflict. We're even planning a weekend roadtrip together in March.
Conflict in a professional environment can be tough if you're not used to it. It can take a while to get used to delivering unpopular messages. The easy option is to say yes to everyone but that brings a different set of problems. You have to ask yourself if you want an easy life or if you want to be respected. It's rare to have both. Gain the respect, the friendships based on respect will follow.
One thing I do is not mix business and pleasure. I value my colleagues of course and am a fully involved team member-in work.
Lots of my colleagues and managers are friends on Facebook. This, I absolutely refuse to do. I've found people to generally be a "oh really?" but no further. I just say "Thanks for the request but, no offence, I don't mix work with my private life?". And I'm consistent, i.e. I refuse everyone associated with work.
Whilst in work, I'll have a laugh and a joke etc when appropriate but never about anything personal and conversation is pretty general. I don't get involved in gossip, bitching (will remove myself).
I really do just see it as- go in, do my job to the best of my ability and go home.
After being accused of being too aloof I learnt:
- When you arrive in the morning make sure you say hello (so people can hear)
- Take 5-10 minutes of a day to chat to someone about something about them that is not work related e.g. how was your weekend, how are your children etc.
- Always wish people a good evening when you leave.
Social media - urgh is the devil. However if used with utmost care (minimum disclosure on your part) is a useful tool giving you prior warning of peoples tragedies, triumphs and underlying personalities and interests for the daily small talk mentioned above.. Avoid Whatsapp groups though they are awful for bitching. I blame my phone to get out of that- 'sorry my phone can't handle another app'.
People value how you make them FEEL, not necessarily what you DO. If you make them feel good by showing a genuine interest in them as a person, you are more likely to get mutual help than the poor person who quietly does stuff for them without complaint and eventually gets taken for granted.
Learn to set your boundaries - skipping lunch absolute no, working late (OK occasionally but not as a rule) and don't waste time on people who don't return favours (excuse yourself - 'sorry I can't prioritise that - maybe next week').
I expect people have tried looking me up on social media and have given up! I'm invisible. The thought of seeing what my boss gets up to at the weekend is deeply embarrassing