The importance of assertiveness in our overall wellbeing

Following on from the recent world Mental Health Day, Wellbeing & Leadership Manager @ Wrkit, Jason Brennan, explains that it is important to take time out to reflect on our overall mental health and wellness and what might be contributing to ongoing areas of unwellness.

One key area of wellness is healthy communication and the ability to confidently speak out about what is important to us, what is affecting us emotionally and psychologically and what might be contributing to our not being heard. This is the important skill of assertiveness.

Assertiveness is defined as:

  • Someone who is being assertive behaves confidently and is not frightened to say what they want or believe
  • Being assertive means being able to stand up for your own or other people’s thoughts, feelings or rights in a calm and positive way, without being either aggressive, or passive in behaviour

Assertiveness is standing up for ourselves and our personal rights by expressing our thoughts, feelings and beliefs in a direct, honest and appropriate way. By being assertive we need always to respect the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of other people and in so doing we are promoting an I’m OK, You’re OK philosophy – respecting the worth, value and dignity of ourselves and others.

Being able to communicate effectively means

  • Slowing down
  • Figuring out how we feel
  • Exploring why we feel this way
  • Understanding what relates to me and what relates to not me (others or external situation)
  • Think about how to influence the external
  • Create a plan to execute
  • Consider context for contact (where and when to talk)

Part of our plan might be to communicate and explain to others what is happening for us and how they might be contributing to this and to work on a plan to change and improve the situation.

Some tips to being assertive are –

REFLECTION:

  • Understand how we feel and why we feel this way
  • Manage our emotions with clear thoughts
  • Maintain self-control in how we want to share these insights

EXPRESSION:

  • Express ourselves through this reflective understanding
  • Choose to speak out and be heard considerately and appropriately (avoid blame)
  • Encourage two-way openness
  • Ok to disagree, assertiveness is about self-expression

CONGRUENCY:

  • Listen and respond to others point of view appropriately
  • Admit to mistakes and apologise if appropriate and helpful
  • Treat others as equal – I’m ok, You’re ok
  • Feel good about having activated the skill of assertiveness and understanding

Author: Jason Brennan, Wellbeing & Leadership Manager @ Wrkit

The workplace culture equation

Culture = Commitment + Convenience + Communication

It seems like such a simple equation, right? And the truth is, that maintaining a positive workplace culture really does come down to this simple equation. Putting it in place, however, is a different matter.

Researching and setting your goals, and then implementing a strategy to achieve your goals will require buy-in from literally everyone in your organisation. After all, the word culture is defined as ‘the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular group of people’. In other words, a culture only exists because of the actions and attitudes of the people who create it.

Let’s look at the constituent parts of the culture equation individually;

Commitment

Commitment is not achieved at board level, although that is essential to the outcome. It simply begins there, where the directors and leaders of your organisation understand the value of a strong positive company culture and are prepared to invest in achieving it. Like all achievements though, it will take effort and persistence to make it happen;

Have a clear plan – a well-researched plan, with achievable goals is an absolute must. You will need to completely understand your existing organisational culture, warts and all. To create a thriving positive culture, you will first need to eliminate any negative elements, and that means finding them and acknowledging their existence. When it comes to planning something as complex as an entire culture, an ‘honesty first’ approach will serve you well.

Understand the elements of employee engagement – to truly create an environment where all employees are fully engaged, you must first embrace the elements that make up ‘engagement’. The five core elements that you will need to commit to are as follows;

  • Recognition of your employees’ achievements – make sure they know their roles and congratulate them for performing their role well. Do it often. Encourage employees to recognise each other. Make sure to remind everyone that this is an expected pat of their role
  • Professional & Personal Growth – almost all people want to know how they can develop, not only in their jobs, but also in their lives in general. Companies that provide the tools that allow this to happen will improve employee contentment. Put something in place for them.
  • Wellness (physical, mental & emotional) – it goes without saying that someone needs to be well enough to do their job. We are not talking about being ironman fit, or achieving spiritual zen, but we are talking about providing opportunities for employees to improve their physical, mental and emotional states, and encouraging them to take those opportunities. Everyone wins when they do.
  • Financial stability – employees need it. Just like your organisation needs to constantly balance the books to stay afloat, so do your employees. The problem is, very few people are trained to do so. So, train them. It seems obvious, right? The bottom line (no pun intended) is that your employees will feel pretty good when they are not in financial difficulty. Give them the tools and knowledge to help them achieve it.
  • Having a voice – so many people feel ignored at work. They believe, right or wrong, that they do not have a voice in their organisation. It simply makes them feel bad. Give them that voice. Find ways that they can contribute to the company, to the culture, to the business. Whether it is open sessions, meetings, surveys, or one to one feedback, show them know that their opinion is important.

And this is the most important thing to remember. You need to address all five core elements. Put it this way; imagine buying a gym membership and only working on your biceps. Sure, you might be able to lift heavy things, but you wouldn’t get fit by doing it.

A top-down approach is key – this part is simple. The leaders and senior management in your company must set the example in order to prove to everyone else that the company culture is precious to the organisation. Not only do they need to be actively participating in events organised, social nights, wellness days, or fitness initiatives, but they also need to constantly (and I do mean constantly) encourage others to participate. Your company culture will take time to mature, but it will require constant nurturing for it to thrive.

Convenience

Here are some interesting statistics;

  • 60% of employees do not use company sponsored benefits because they cannot find them.
    (Harvard Business Review)
  • 60% of employees will stay long term with an employer that shows an interest in their health
    (Irish Times)
  • Only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged at work
    (Gallup)

If the first statistic above improved, the second two would follow suit.

You absolutely must make any employee benefits, perks, information, or policies regarding your company culture available 24 / 7 / 365. Add them to your intranet, put posters up, distribute flyers, and send carrier pigeons if necessary. Just make sure absolutely every single person in your organisation knows where to find them.

Communication

Over-communicate the message. Tell your employees over and over about your company culture, how proud everyone in your organisation is to be creating a special place to work, about the tools you want them to use to help in that development, and about their role in maintaining and contributing to that culture.

Ask your marketing team about the ‘rule of seven’. They know that in order or your message to be absorbed, your customers need to see it seven times. The message about your company culture that gets delivered to your employees is no different.

The culture of your organisation will be built by your employees, and that message needs to be clear in everyone’s minds.

Your company culture is like a garden. It needs to be designed, planned and constructed. Most importantly though, it needs to be nurtured. If it is neglected, it will die. If it is nourished, it will blossom. If everyone understands the goals and everyone understands their roles, the workplace culture equation is easily understood too.

Author: Tom O’Driscoll, Founder, Product & Solutions Director @ Wrkit