Are You a Workplace Wimp?

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Please answer each question with a “yes” or “no”. Then see “How to Become More Assertive” below.

Yes No Situation
1. Are you reluctant to ask your coworkers for help when you’re overloaded?
2. When a coworker makes an unreasonable request, do you usually give in and comply?
3. If a coworker shares your confidential information with others, do you ignore their breach of trust?
4. With team projects, do you frequently wind up doing more than your fair share of the work?
5. If you find problems with someone else’s work, do you correct them yourself?
6. If a coworker makes annoying or inappropriate remarks, do you keep quiet about it?
7. When a coworker interrupts your work at a bad time, do you stop what you’re doing and talk to them?
8. If a coworker borrows something and forgets to give it back, do you just forget about it?
9. When someone interrupts you in a meeting, do you stop talking and let them take over?
10. If someone brings you inaccurate or incomplete work, do you accept it anyway?
11. If you learn that a coworker is doing something illegal or unethical, will you report it?
12. When you disagree with a coworker about a work issue, do you usually keep your opinion to yourself?
13. If a coworker comes up with a stupid idea, do you politely point out the possible problems?


The more “YES” answers you gave, the more wimpy you are.

To become less wimpy and more assertive, check out the suggestions below.

How to Become MORE Assertive

“Assertive” is the opposite of “wimpy”. However, it does not mean “aggressive”. Assertive people can convey their ideas, needs, and wishes to others without becoming anxious, angry, upset, or defensive. Here are a few suggestions for becoming less of a “workplace wimp”.

Monitor your “self-talk”. The “messages” in your thoughts will determine your actions. If you constantly think “she’s going to get mad if I speak up” or “maybe I’ll lose my job” or “it would be easier to just go along”, then you’re just reinforcing your timid tendencies.

Remind yourself of your “perfect rights”. Remember that you have a “perfect right” to your own opinions, wishes, and ideas, as well as a perfect right to be treated reasonably by others.

Don’t overdo empathy. Caring about others is great, but too much empathy can cause you to neglect your own needs. It’s all too easy to congratulate yourself for being “nice”, when you’re really being wimpy.

Clearly state what you need. If you must have information, assistance, time, or anything else, say so directly. Don’t ask a question when you need to make a statement. Saying “Could you give me two more days to finish the project?” is not the same as saying “I need two more days to finish the project.

Protect your boundaries. Some pushy people are chronic boundary violators. They will not hesitate to take up your time, ask personal questions, interrupt inconveniently, or borrow your stuff. The only way to deal with these boorish types is to learn to say “NO”.

Be persistent. Wimpy people give up very easily. They will timidly say “Well, I’m not really sure if I can”, then immediately fold at the slightest pushback. Assertive people know when they are being reasonable and are willing to stick to their guns.

Don’t build up resentment. Instead of speaking up, some wimpy people just become resentful. Then they suddenly go nuclear, thereby confusing and alienating people. If you feel yourself getting angry, it’s time to say something, not fume quietly.

Focus on problems, not people. Sometimes wimpy people are afraid to speak up because they fear making the other person mad. To reduce these fears, focus on the issue, not the person. Telling someone that they are lazy and inconsiderate is not assertive. It’s just rude. Much better to say “I couldn’t complete my report because the data was late.”

Master the art of “I-statements”. “I-statements” can be assertive without being critical. An I-statement phrases your concern in terms of what you need, not what’s wrong with the other person. Saying “I need to be able to plan my week, so I’d like to have the schedule this afternoon” is much better than saying “Why are you always so late with the schedule?”

Don’t over-explain. Wimpy people often feel obligated to justify their actions or refusals. As a result, they frequently give too many reasons. If you can’t join a group for lunch, for example, you are under no obligation to explain why. You can simply say that you’re not able to go.

Don’t over-apologize. Wimpy people are chronic apologizers. They say “I’m sorry” over and over and over. But if you are taking a reasonable position, there is no need to apologize. And if you did nothing wrong, there is no need to accept blame. Too much apologizing just gives away your power.