Assertiveness in Project Management

Wikipedia defines assertiveness as expressing one’s opinion without threatening the rights of another. In other words,  assertiveness is speaking up when our conscience tells us that we should say something.

In managing projects, clients, suppliers, team members or others sometimes have an opinion or make a statement that is not beneficial to the project or our business. 

Being assertive is not a popular project management skill. By nature we do not like confrontations. Being assertive is difficult for both young inexperienced project managers as experienced project managers. However it is a skill we all must have.Same as in your private life, lack of assertiveness can be disastrous.

Some Examples

The need to be assertive can show up in different situations.

 Hesitant to Confront. We all know the feeling when we see someone making a wrong decision because he or she does not have all the information needed to make the correct decision. We have the information, but we are hesitant to confront the person.

 Unrealistic Schedules. Schedules that we cannot meet are very popular in project management, despite all the sophisticated scheduling tools we have. We are often aware that a schedule is not realistic, but we are reluctant to schedule realistically. We do not always speak up when our conscience tells we should. The reason could be lack of self-discipline or business pressure. Some unrealistic schedules are imposed on us. Some we make ourselves.

 Unrealistic Estimates. All that was said above about unrealistic schedules, can be said about unrealistic estimates. I am mentioning estimates separately here, because the financial consequences of unrealistic estimates are more directly felt. Unrealistic estimates can be high or low

Results of non-Assertiveness

We all know what happens when we are not assertive. Sooner or later it will become evident that we cannot meet our commitments. Not being able to meet our commitments often has a ripple effect throughout the project organization, down to suppliers and sub suppliers etc. This can be costly and certainly is frustrating. This is not a good situation to be in. Lack of assertiveness can ruin your project and or business.

Results of Assertiveness

On the other hand, being assertive takes some courage at the time of being assertive, but further down the road, people will start seeing the fruits of your assertiveness. If you feel something is not realistic, substantiate your opinion and bring it forward. Being assertive is not an easy skill to learn, but it is a very rewarding skill to have. 





4 thoughts on “Assertiveness in Project Management”

  1. Gloria, thank you for your positive comment. Assertiveness is one of the most important soft skills. Assertiveness or the lack of it shows up as  a problem, not only in projects, but all around us in life. Developing assertiveness will pay off big time in life.

  2. Hi Victor,
    I found your articles to be very informative. I learn from this assistiveness in projectment post.  I believe I am an assertive person but this article was very enlightening.

  3. Hi Ade,

    Thank you for your comment. I will surely follow your request, and dedicate a future tip on how to learn to be assertive.



  4. Hi Victor,

    Thank you for this recent article on assertiveness. It’s also a balanced article while it takes a broad overview. You have correctly identified assertiveness as a skill to learn and i would be happy to understand the framework you advocate for this learning to take place.


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