Assertive Vs Aggressive~ What Workplace Vibe Do You Give Off?

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With being a professional woman it is important that you know the difference between assertive vs aggressive communication. As a professional woman you are expected to balance being a boss while still being a woman. If you come across to hardcore then people will not respect you but you will get the reputation of a B- and a crazy co-worker. There is no cursing on this blog but I think that you get the picture.

But in the same token you do not want to be so soft that no one respects or listens to you. And this is where you must learn assertive vs aggressive.  I used to think that assertive communication meant that you needed to be brutal. That you needed to tell people who, what, where, when and why and say it with an attitude and a twirl of the neck. I quickly learned that this was immature thinking. If you come off this way then people will not respect you.

They will not want to listen to you and they will not think that you are not a good boss.  Once I mastered the art of assertive communication, I get a VERY different response from both men and women. Because it will allow you to project authority, sound articulate, and give you confidence. Assertive communication does not mean that you have to be mean, be rude, or to tell someone off.

Assertive communication means means that you express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view, while also respecting the rights and beliefs of others.

  • Please note that you respect the right of others even if you do not agree with them.

That is why in this post I am going to tell you the difference between assertive vs aggressive communication and behavior and give you an example of EXACTLY what you need to do to be assertive over being aggressive.  Also check out my video down below on how to clap back as a Christian for more examples of assertive communication and don’t forget to subscribe to my channel by clicking here.

1. Assertive vs Aggressive In the Workplace, Knowing The Difference

When looking at assertive vs agressive communication in the workplace remember assertive communication doesn’t look to bulldoze over other people (that would be aggressive communication). Its goal is to create the best outcome for you in cooperation with the others in your workplace. (source).

While aggressive people adopt the my way or the highway stance, coming off as hostile and abrasive, passive people can be pushovers, giving up their power and allowing themselves to be taken advantage of, creating a surefire recipe for burnout and resentment.  Assertive people, on the other hand, tend to seek out and create win-win scenarios.

Assertive people understand the value of making their desires and beliefs known, but their pride isn’t damaged if their solution isn’t the one that comes out on top. Confident and assured, these people approach situations with a healthy dose of objectivity, and as a result, are able to communicate clearly and work through challenges in a low-stress, no-drama, and self-honoring way. (source).

Sounds good doesn’t it? And easy. But honestly it is not.  Because I can almost bet there are some people out here in the workplace thinking that they are being assertive when really they are just being a jerk. Being assertive requires some self awareness (AKA knowing how you come across), self control (meaning that you cannot get easily offended or upset because someone does not agree with you or even if they do something you don’t like), and impulse control (knowing that even if someone pisses you off that you do not need to say something that makes the situation worse  but only speak to make the situation better).  Which I talk more about in my video below.

Many people find it challenging to project assertiveness precisely because it requires you to walk a fine line between being pushy and pacifying. To help you navigate all of this I am going to give you step by step examples on how to shift your behavior from aggressive to assertive.  Let’s get into it shall we?

2. Assertive Vs Aggressive ~ How to be more assertive at work remeber to articulate yourself.

Just because you are speaking does not mean that you are articulating yourself. This is the number one thing that you can do for assertive communication. Because when you are articulate it says something about you. It makes you look good, it makes you sound good, and it makes it look like you have a valid opinion as oppose to just sitting there and agreeing with everyone else which is passive OR getting upset, going off, and yelling at people which is aggressive.

If one or both of you are screaming over top of each other or being nasty to one another nothing is going to get accomplished. And I know what you  may be thinking, that your boss is crazy as heck and they are not going to be talking to you any kind of way. And I agree, but let me show you how to properly be assertive and still demand respect with your articulation.  Which I talk about in my video below on how to be on your grown woman status.

3. Assertive vs aggressive ~ Case in point: Me

I once had a crazy boss that was like many bosses and thought that just because you worked for her that she had the right to speak to you any kind of way. She called herself coming to my cubicle and going off on me like a crazy person in front of everyone I guess trying to embarrass me.

Assertive vs aggressive how to respond

Aggressive would have  been to tell her to stop talking to me like that, I am not her child, to roll my eyes, ignore her, or to give her the same disrespect she gave me. I did not do that. I chose the assertive response.

Assertive response: After she finished talking to me, I put a smile on my face and told her I understand. When she then returned to her desk I sent her a instant message requesting to speak to her in her office. In which I stated the following:

” I do understand that you are the direct supervisor of our program, however I am sure that you can agree the way in which you provided feedback to me was unprofessional. If you choose to reprimand me that should typically occur within the confines of ones office not in public. For the future, I would respectfully request that you provide me with negative feedback in private and in a tone that  is befitting for an office environment.”  

4. Assertive Vs Agressive ~ Assertive women knows how to keep calm.

As a woman  you already have a stereotype over your head that you are too emotional and when people say the wrong things to you, you will cry, yell, get upset or become overly emotional. I have personally seen women in my workplace do it several times. Have you ever seen someone going off on someone else and the other person just sitting there looking at them. If not I recommend you do and then determine which person has the most self-control and which one looks like the bigger fool.

5. Assertive Vs Aggressive Case in point: The battle of my co-workers.

I was once at a job in which two female coworkers of my almost came to blows.  And all of these came about because they could not agree on the right course of treatment for a client. One person said one thing the other said another, then the other said well you do not know what you are talking about, then things got louder and it went so on and so forth. One person started crying, one person started yelling, and then the other started calling names.  HIGHLY unprofessional.

Assertive vs Aggressive Knowing The Difference

The aggressive communication is already above, the yelling, crying, and taking jabs at one another. The assertive communication would have looked something like this: 

” I understand that dealing with clients and having a difference of opinions can be very emotional. However, I have stated my opinion based on the evidence presented to me and I think at this point we can agree to disagree.”

Notice that you said it in a calm tone and if the other person starts to get loud then just sit there and look at them. Don’t even repeat yourself at this point because you have already stated where you stand in a very direct way and already articulated that you are not going back and forth with them. Whatever their response is from here on out, just stay calm, do not engage, and change the subject. Because engaging will get you upset and turn your communication into aggressive.

6. Assertive vs Aggressive ~ Assertive women Don’t Take Shots

Women can be very catty in the sense that they throw low key shade and take shots. A woman can do it because she sees another woman that she thinks is pretty or one that she just does not like. A woman can do it because she sees another woman at the job as her competition or a woman can do it because she thinks that it is funny and cute to treat people this way.  It is not cute and it only makes you look like you are jealous and insecure of other women in the workplace.

When we want to be assertive some people mistake that for aggressive. And so they start to want to do is to take shots at the other person or belittle the other person to show them “who has the upper hand.” We want them to feel bad about themselves because they are attempting to make us feel bad about ourselves or they are doing something that is making us angry.  Don’t do that.  The only thing that will do is to cause an argument.  If you are attempting to practice assertive communication the main point is that you want to be heard and you want the person hearing you to listen and possibly act on the directive given.  So it is best not to escalate the situation even further.  Even if the person is taking shots at you.

7. Assertive vs Aggressive Case in point: The HR Lady

At this point I know you may be thinking how many stories do you have. Yet another true story of an aggressive HR lady at one of my places of employment who was very aggressive in her communication. And she just so happen to come in contact with my friend who was also aggressive in her communication. My friend had been out of work for a few days and needed to turn in her doctor’s note. Instead of the HR lady just doing her job, taking the note, and documenting it. She took the doctor’s note, made a low key shots about my friend missing work so much, and then she thought it was funny. In which my friend then responded.

” I may have had some excused days off from work but at least I know my job. Whereas you are here everyday and still cannot manage to do yours.” 

To be fair the HR lady did not really know her job, but no matter how true the statement was and even if the HR lady threw a low blow first there is a better way to handle the situation.

Assertive vs Aggressive The Response

An appropriate response would have consisted of:

” As a human resource manager I am sure you know the policy in regards to turning in medical documentation for more than 3 days miss from work. I am abiding by policy by providing you with the documentation as written by a medical professional. I would really appreciate you not commenting or providing feedback on my medical condition as it pertains to work as I find your comments insensitive to my condition and highly inappropriate.” 

Are you starting to get the hang of it? Do you see the articulation and the fact that you are quoting policy and offering a solution in your response.  Which in this case telling her not to bring up your medical condition.  And you did it without taking low blows or agitating the situation.  You can also watch my video below where I show you how to be assertive in the workplace in even the most triggering situations.

8. Assertive vs Aggressive ~ How To Be Assertive at work Say Your Peace and Shut Up

There have been plenty of coworkers I have not agreed with and plenty of bosses I have not agreed with. And even after all is said and done they may still not agree with me.  At that point I have determined that we can agree to disagree. And if the matter is more serious then you can choose to follow the appropriate avenues to take things to the next level.

9. Assertive Vs Aggressive Case in point: Me and the HR lady

Remember that HR lady from above, her and I also had an interaction in which she did become aggressive but I maintained the “say my peace and shut up.”  In this instance I went to the HR representative to ask her a question because she owed me money for a paid holiday and I brought in the policy to show her that this was the case.  In which case she responded telling me I was wrong and showing me an outdated policy several years old, and refusing to pay  me.

Assertive vs aggressive Response

My assertive response was to simply ask “Do you intend not to follow the policy that I am providing to you? If this is the case, as HR please provide me with an updated policy  via email that quotes what you are saying in regards to this matter. “

And I went back to my desk before she could even respond. At which time she sent me the same outdated policy and cut off the date via email. Now mind you I have already communicated myself assertively by clearly telling her what I needed and at this point she was playing games. Instead of going back and forth via email, I cc’d the compliance department in our company, along with her supervisor, and attached my policy and the policy I was provided requesting citing that my HR department was out of compliance by providing me with outdated policy and I request the present one to be followed.

Even with assertiveness in the office you do not have to let people roll all over you. If you see that someone is not willing to give you a satisfactory resolution after you have clearly articulated the issue do not go back and forth with them. Because that is aggressive communication. Simply follow protocol and go over their head.

10. Assertive Vs Aggressive ~ How to be more assertive at work by Meaning What You Say

I am a huge advocate of being direct with people meaning what you say, and being firm, fair, and consistent with everyone.  I have once worked with a boss that she could NOT make up her mind for the life of her. One day she said this, the next that, the next something else, and the next something else.  This caused the team to be confused and the overall deterioration of the workplace. That is why you cannot be wishy washy with her words, change your mind every second, or mean one thing and say another. No one is a mind reader.  Also check out my video below on the important of your words.

Assertive vs. Aggressive Examples

  • An aggressive example of not keeping your word would be: Start telling everyone they are going to get fired if they do not do xy and z then not follow through on it or when they do not do xyz.
  • Another example of this is being indecisive, when your coworkers ask you a question you have trouble coming up with a clear plan of what you are going to do and then you change your mind. And then when people cannot keep up with what you are saying and doing you then blame everyone else for the areas in which you lack and then you threaten to fire them again and the cycle starts all over. This behavior is not productive and that is more of an aggressive behavior.
  • Assertive behavior would be telling an employee, that has not followed the rules, that if they continue to not do their job they will get written up and if they continue after that then you may have to reconsider their employment.  It is not a threat, you have given them an opportunity to correct their behavior, and you have communicated a directive and the consequence in a clear manner. If the employee does not correct their behavior then you follow through on ALL of the things that you have just mentioned.

Such as writing them up first and then a termination if the behavior continues.  This is how you create a fair work environment and you are assertive.  You are following the policy regarding reprimand, you are not making idle threats, you are verbalizing your expectations, and you are only issuing a consequence once the employee has not done what they were asked to do.

Assertive vs aggressive, I hope you have an idea of which one is which. I have said this before and I will say it again. Aggressiveness in the workplace is not a strength. Assertive is the strength and it paints you in much better light.  It does not mean that you are just passive and put in a position where people walk all over it, it is the opposite. It is just the type of behavior that can make you stand out.

If you know a career woman that needs some assistance with her attitude and her behavior then go ahead and share this post with her. PLUS.


  1. Thank you I needed to read this. I am still working on self control and not allowing others to manipulate my emotons

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