Assertiveness in the Corporate World

Have you ever felt that assertiveness is overvalued in the corporate world? I have – not once, multiple times. People oversee good performance, but never fail to see lack of assertiveness. Compassion is seen as a weakness. Being nice is inappropriate, being rude and unapproachable is cool.

I am an introvert by nature. I am wired that way, and beyond change as per science, but this world says otherwise, and so do my fellow beings. They keep insisting that I change. I should break myself and mould myself into an assertive person so that I can fit better into their space, so that they can accept me and consider me one among themselves.

Would you believe me that our system is to be blamed for this whole concept? Yes, you should, because I can prove it to you. Let us go back to as far as school days. Quiet and timid children keep getting bullied, sometimes by friends and even by teachers. I have heard multiple teachers make remarks like “She is always in her shell, good at studies, obedient, good at a lot of thinks, but not outspoken. She has to be louder and make herself heard.” I wished they could see my skills through my accomplishments, but they always yearned to see me as a rockstar…meh.

Now let us travel a bit farther ahead into college. Here comes class participation. If that was the only way to get marks at college, I would have flunked every subject. I am incapable of adding on to noise. I do ask questions, but only if I have a genuine query, not for the sake of it. I would rather ask a doubt after the class, so that I can save my sound energy from being drowned in the chaos. Finally placements, and you have group discussions to brutally murder everything you built in all those years at college. I cannot bite the bread from somebody else’s mouth. That explains why I could never get through any group discussion that did not endorse a written or spoken summary. Did I ever feel ashamed about myself for not being capable of getting through group discussions? Not really, but the system ensured that I did. At that point I realised that my capabilities do not really matter, I should know how to make myself heard, I should learn how to sell myself. And I did try, not just try, I tried really hard, until it dawned upon me that this world is not prepared for me. I am invisible here.

Want yourself to be valued? Talk, talk and talk. All you have to do is impress by talking. I know at least a few people who can do just this, not an iota of work, but have created a space for themselves in their workplaces, because they can talk, shout, fight and do all that loudly, very loudly. I have been bullied for my feeble voice every other day. It makes me a good singer, maybe that is why god gave me this gift, but that does not matter. I have to shout my lungs out to impress the system. I cannot do that consistently for more than 5 minutes. I will be drained out. Give me a mic and put me on the stage. I can speak, make myself heard and I can impress, because the stage is all mine. There is no noise to conquer, other than the inner voice which understands me totally.

Compassion is not a virtue in the world I live, definitely not at work. Nobody, except your subordinates value it. Your peers take it as your weakness and your superiors see you as a misfit in the organisation. No matter, how good the quality of your work might be, no matter how fast you can accomplish tasks, you are still not good enough, because you cannot decorate yourself the way they want you to. You are just not that talking Christmas tree. I live in an age where people give lectures on acceptance of introverts and fall back when it comes to actually practicing what they preach.

As an introvert and as an ambitious individual I feel it is important to create awareness about the existence of introverts in the first place. Stop telling us how we can change ourselves. Stop coaxing us into changing ourselves. Maybe the system can help by adding another category to the definition of diversity at workplace and try not to measure all human beings using the same standards. Let the introverts co-exist on this planet.

 

Published by

Pooja Subramanian

Author of the book "Twigs Entwined"

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