It’s important to hold your ground in a tough office environment without coming across as angry or aggressive. And knowing where the line is between assertive and aggressive can make or break your career, say business experts. Assertiveness is an important skill that’s necessary for running a team or advancing your career, while aggression stems from disrespecting boundaries and getting overly frustrated in the workplace.
Body language can be a key to identifying aggression, says entrepreneur Karen James. Aggressive people may make strong physical and verbal gestures as they communicate, such as swearing or pounding a table. Their faces may turn red, too.
If you’re inspiring fear rather than respect, that can be a sign that you’ve crossed the line into aggression, says Bridget Loudon, Expert360.
Making threats is definitely an aggressive tactic, says behavioral researcher Dan Gregory.
Being assertive, on the other hand, is based in rational, clear communication and is focused on outcomes and actions, not personalities. It also doesn’t involve blame or emotions, says executive coach Virginia Mansell. Putting your feelings aside and focusing on how actions affect the organization can help you stay assertive without getting aggressive.
If you’re working in an aggressive office, you might find yourself taking on aggressive tendencies in self-defense. Try to stick with clear, unemotional language when communicating, and keep things professional instead of crossing boundaries by swearing or using other threatening language or gestures.
— Adapted from “Office politics: When does assertive become aggressive?” Sylvia Pennington, The Sydney Morning Herald.