Avoid the Mistakes of Leaders Who Don't Know How to Communicate Assertively and Respectfully | Learning & Development | Primeast

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how a care-fronting approach is more effective at addressing breakdown in communications than being confrontational. In this article I look a little more closely at how to communicate assertively and respectfully in the workplace, to build trust and increase productivity.

Poor communication – the easiest way to destroy trust

Without trust, the organization cannot reap the benefits of a collaborative workplace. Managers must be trusted by employees, and then encourage workers to trust each other. Leaders who communicate assertively and respectfully will engender the trust and respect of their employees, peers, suppliers, and customers.

In an environment of trust, it is easier to persuade and influence. Employees will more readily accept responsibility, share experiences, and contribute to a collective, goal focused effort. When they are trusted, employees are enthused, engaged, and energized. Effective communication skills create and sustain an environment of trust. Leaders that lack these skills will see their department suffer from three common faults:


1.      The creation of obstacles

Without trust, a manager’s requests will be met with apprehension and resistance. Employees create obstacles, and the manager is forced into micro-managing, fostering and cementing the lack of trust. Progress slows, and may even grind to a halt.

2.      Employees avoid responsibility

Without trust, people become suspicious of the motives of others. Consequently they increasingly avoid responsibility, fearing of ulterior motives. Managers soon become convinced that employees are against them, and stop listening to their concerns, suggestions, and views. Eventually all communication breaks down, and teams become a collective of individuals fighting their own corner.

3.      A whispering crowd intent on destruction

When employees are ordered around, they feel distant from the decision-making process. They no longer own their work and their distrust begins to spread to their colleagues. These whispers can build to a crescendo designed to destroy authority by first corrupting the team effort, then eroding productivity, and finally forcing business leaders to take remedial action.

How to communicate assertively and respectfully with five simple strategies

The best strategies are usually the simplest, and so it is with communication techniques. Here are five ways in which to communicate with assertiveness and show respect. When you achieve these two aims, you’ll find trust in the workplace grows organically.

1.      Understand your own emotions and those of others

It’s okay to feel angry. In fact, resisting a release of anger causes it to build. It’s a natural emotion that acts as a pressure valve. How you communicate that anger is the important piece of the jigsaw. Leaders who benefit from a high level of emotional intelligence will be able to channel their emotions and those of others to positively affect situations.

2.      Be clear and concise

Always communicate clearly and concisely: less is more. Be direct and to the point, and avoid the passive-aggressive ‘backdoor’ request (e.g. “if you aren’t doing anything more important”). Even if well-meaning, these sorts of request devalue the other person’s time.

3.      Take into account the other person’s feelings

When making a decision, be sure account for the other person’s feelings about your request. This doesn’t mean that you will have to change your decision, but let the other person know that you understand their concerns. Always justify your course of action with rational argument, especially if the other person feels aggrieved.

4.      Listen properly

It is said that the art of good communication is knowing how to listen. Certainly, a person that feels listened to will feel respected. Listen with an open posture, maintaining eye contact, and remove any personal agenda. This way you will control reactions and be able to discuss objections calmly and collectively.

5.      Communicate with expectations of collaboration

Assertiveness does not mean controlling. Rather, in the modern workplace there is a need to work collaboratively. Controlling behavior indicates distrust, and will demoralize your team.


Be prepared to share your experiences and views, and embrace differences. Engage in what others have to say, and listen to their points of view. In an open and honest environment, where discussion flourishes and different perspectives are heard, trust is built on solid ground. Solutions to difficult challenges will appear more quickly. People become engaged and productivity rises. For leaders and employees, a trusting workplace is a win-win.

Contact Forward Focus today to discover how an Emotional Intelligence course will develop and embed effective interpersonal skills in the workplace, for leaders, managers, and employees.


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