How to Be Assertive While Harmonizing

Businessman with hand extended in "no" gestureDon’t be someone else’s rug.

By Bill Reeb

In the ’70s, there was a big movement in business culture to learn to be more assertive, aptly called “assertiveness training.” Michaelle was quick to enroll because this was an important skill set to call upon, especially with many women moving into jobs that had historically been held by men (Michaelle was a systems engineer with IBM during this period). The concept was simple: “You need to speak your mind, ask for what you want, demand what is fair and don’t let yourself be a rug for everyone to step on.”

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In our early years working at IBM together, when one of the secretaries needed to step away or take a  break, she would often come over to Michaelle and ask her to cover with typing, answering the phone and so on. In addition to the fact that she held the professional job of being a systems specialist, Michaelle also had earned her undergraduate degree in psychology and an MBA with a concentration in accounting. I just had a bachelor’s degree in business – far less educated – yet no one ever asked me to fill in.