Assertive versus Aggressive. Confidence versus Conceit. As a leader, we might display one over the other. There was a guy I knew in high school who parlayed confidence into conceit on a regular basis. He annoyed the crap out of me, but I found myself swimming in his lane to fight back. I had become that rude jerk. I was merely trying to be an assertive alpha male (my skinny frame didn’t make it so easy to do….stupid track team), but it didn’t translate that way to others.
While an assertive person channels and promotes good communication, the slide into aggression parlays that into interruption and talking over people. It’s a subtle slide. There are characteristics that start healthy enough but then become twisted and contorted by a shifting foundation.
Is there something more lurking just a little deeper? A lack of self-esteem may be at play. It’s not to say you don’t have any self-esteem, but rather it’s development might be askew. Dr. Michael Miller, former editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, says, “It’s more likely that self-esteem will come as a result of accurate self-understanding, appreciation of one’s genuine skills, and the satisfaction of helping others.” As managers, is this our stance?
Observations for years show me how much management often find their identity in the work they do. This becomes the basis for self-worth and self-esteem. And this is a simple recipe for disaster. When we base our esteem upon shifting sand, such as a particular organization, the work being done or even the people we work with, the foundation is based upon change. People leave, we leave, the work changes and organizations are sold, merged, restructured or altered. If we live for the company, we will be disappointed.
Our audience, however, might be receiving management poorly based upon the dilemma of assertive/aggressive or confidence/conceit. Again, if it’s a matter of self-esteem, your staff can easily identify the difference. When a manager is over-the-top or a micro-manager, the talk among employees will start rather quickly. It sets a tone for response that’s based upon someone’s individual needs (in this case, the manager) rather than the good of the whole. Staff begin to look for ways to avoid the wrath of a manager or even seeing the manager at all. These goals supersede the goals of the department in the work to be done.
Such a backwards setup. We short-circuit the efforts towards our department’s goals by the way in which we struggle to handle ourselves and the workload, for instance. Help is an okay option. It’s not a sign of weakness, despite the possibility that your employer may think so. And while I know your job is important to you (your finances, for example!), it cannot be that you should become less of the person you are or are meant to be. Simple to say, right? But what does it profit you to be aggressive, struggling with self-esteem or self-worth and not meet the goals you’ve set for work? Right the ship. Take the time necessary to unravel what’s been going on.
Typically, managing the esteem of a manager is not on a job description, yet we see it happen. Don’t be the manager putting employees in this situation. Get grounded outside of the work. Then, when work needs to be done, it is a matter of how to best do it, apart from it fulfilling some esteem needs. And while I am far from a self-help guru, I do know enough that there is truth that a person must discover for himself/herself that is separate from work, from a person or from status. Take the time to examine yourself and find out what’s true about you.
In human resources, we can find ourselves giving so much to others, which is a part of our job, that we tax our own foundation. We must be sure to connect inwardly.
Pushing the envelope is worth it. Don’t fear being assertive. It does matter in driving the goals of your department. However, it is meant to be done with a specific goal in mind for the organization, not for your esteem. If work defines you, take a small step back and look at the bigger picture. Your role needs you to be as with it as possible. You are the one in the role for a reason. Get back to you.