Aggression Vs Assertion

Posted on written by Marvin

Aggression Vs Assertion - Project Skills Solutions Blog

The Fine Line Between Aggression and Assertion at Work

In today’s fast-paced work environment, communication is the cornerstone of effective teamwork and leadership. However, not all forms of communication are created equal. The distinction between aggression and assertion is subtle yet significant, with the former having the potential to harm colleagues’ mental health and overall workplace wellbeing.

Understanding Aggression: More Than Just Words

Aggression in the workplace goes beyond raised voices. When we think of aggression at work it might be shouting, sarcasm, personal insults and belittling comments. However it actually encompasses any behaviour that is intended to dominate or harm another person, whether through verbal barbs, undermining tactics, or even non-verbal cues. Aggressive behaviours can manifest in various forms, from overt actions to more subtle, psychological tactics.

Here are some examples:

  1. Exclusionary Tactics: Deliberately excluding someone from meetings, conversations, or decision-making processes is a form of social aggression.
  2. Overbearing Supervision: Micromanaging or excessively controlling work without giving employees autonomy or space to contribute can be seen as aggressive.
  3. Public Criticism: Criticising someone’s work or behaviour in a public setting can be humiliating and damaging to self-esteem. It can contribute to a hostile work environment, where fear of embarrassment or criticism hampers open communication and collaboration.
  4. Threats to Professional Status: Making or insinuating threats about someone’s job security, promotion prospects, or professional reputation constitutes aggressive behaviour.
  5. Non-verbal Intimidation: This can include aggressive posturing, invasion of personal space, or menacing gestures.
  6. Overload of Work: Deliberately overloading someone with work to the point of stress, often with unrealistic deadlines, is a form of aggressive behaviour.

Continuous exposure to aggressive behaviours can lead to chronic stress and anxiety, affecting an individual’s ability to function effectively at work and in personal life, They undermine team cohesion, trust, and morale, leading to decreased productivity and engagement. High levels of aggression in the workplace can also lead to increased staff turnover rates, as employees leave in search of healthier work environments. You might not know that psychological stress from workplace aggression can also manifest physically, leading to headaches, sleep disturbances, and other health issues for the person on the receiving end.

The Power of Assertion: Strong Leadership Without the Harm

In contrast, assertion is about expressing one’s needs, opinions, and boundaries clearly and respectfully.

Assertive communication in leadership fosters an environment of mutual respect and understanding, essential for effective teamwork and leadership. Benefits of assertive leadership include improved connections across organizational levels, enhanced communication without offending, sensitivity in providing honest feedback, and a strong sense of self-worth and respect among leaders. This style of leadership is marked by good judgment, the ability to make quality decisions, and the capacity to inspire trust and respect, leading to healthier relationships and less stress among team members. Assertive leaders balance their approach between being neither aggressive nor passive, contributing significantly to a positive and productive workplace culture.

The Toll of Workplace Aggression on Mental Health and Wellbeing

The Chartered Management Institute released findings in 2023 that almost one-third of workers in the UK have quit a job because of the negative workplace culture they experienced. This survery underlined the risk of managers failing to reign in ‘toxic’ behaviour from colleagues. They pointed out that there was widespread concern over the general quality of managers and their impact on worker’s daily lives (as we can’t forget the negative effects once we walk out of the work building at the end of the day).

Equipping Managers to Foster a Healthier Workplace: The IOSH Course Advantage

The IOSH Managing Occupational Health and Wellbeing is a great course for those looking to foster a healthy workplace culture. Staff are a company’s most important asset. Learn how to manage occupational health and wellbeing for the benefit of everyone. If you have already completed the IOSH Managing Safely course, this training complements it by going into more detail about occupational health, implementing and devising whole staff wellbeing strategies and runs through step-by-step best practices for talking to staff about health and wellbeing issues as well as staff returning to work from illness.

Looking after the wellbeing of staff is not just about following rules; it’s about creating a safe and healthy work environment for everyone. Demonstrating a commitment to employee well-being can boost employee morale and retention, creating a positive work culture that contributes to the long-term success of your organisation.

Transforming Workplace Culture: From Awareness to Action

The difference between a workplace where aggression simmers under the surface and one where assertive communication is the norm can be stark. It’s about creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable and confident to speak up, share ideas, and address issues without fear of negative repercussions.The IOSH Managing Occupational Health and Wellbeing course equips managers, HR professionals, and team leaders with the necessary toolkit to spearhead changes towards a healthier workplace. It emphasizes practical skills for preventing conflict and illness before they arise, ensuring a more positive work environment for everyone involved. This proactive approach empowers those in leadership roles to effectively address and mitigate issues that can impact workplace health and morale. Let’s look at this not just as a goal but as an ongoing process, where small, consistent efforts can lead to a significantly more positive, productive and healthy work culture.

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