How to Avoid Being a Pushover at Work

In any group of people, some will be more assertive than others. Many of those who aren’t assertive by nature face a constant battle to avoid crossing the line into passivity. Even the most laid-back people don’t want to be a pushover.

If your lack of assertiveness has become unhealthy—or is starting to take a turn in that direction—start by asking yourself where the issues are coming from. Maybe you feel you need to please people, or you want to be liked, or you think silence shows your strengths.

Whatever your reasons, being a pushover won’t raise you in anyone’s estimation. It means you’re being taken advantage of. And when you’re tired of it, here are some smart steps you can take as you learn to stand up for yourself with confidence:

Get to know your triggers. What situations freeze you up the most? What people or areas do you associate with problems? The more you understand what’s going on, the better you can combat it. Becoming mindful of self is the first step to making a change.

Learn to prioritize. If you’re saying yes to too many things, spend more time thinking through priorities. Start with the things that are most central to your role and responsibility. When you focus on your priorities, it’s easier to say no to the things that will interfere with them.

Practice saying no. The best way to change your responses is to learn a new behavior, and at the core of not being a pushover is mastering the art of respectfully but firmly saying no. A good starting place is my blog post “17 Different Ways to Say No.” Remember that the best way of getting good at anything is to keep practicing, and that learning to say no gives you more room to say yes to the things you really want to do.

Offer solutions. If you find yourself presented with impossible requests, try to present a solution or an alternative resolution that will help achieve fill the need without making it your responsibility. Learn to be part of the solution without taking over ownership of someone else’s problem.

Stop saying you’re sorry. If you have a tendency to be a pushover, you likely find yourself apologizing often. Try to eliminate “sorry” from your vocabulary except in situations where you’ve actually made an error or caused harm. The next time someone wants to dump something on your lap, just say no and let it go. Offer an alternative if you’re able, but don’t apologize for not taking on something that wasn’t yours to begin with.

Enlist the help of others. It’s hard to change behavior on your own, so enlist a group of people to support you. Find friends, colleagues or a coach who can keep you assertive and accountable. Create yourself an inner circle of people you can count on to help you set appropriate limits.

Keep practicing. Like everything else in life, learning to stand up for yourself takes practice. Remind yourself daily to be confident and firm. It may be difficult at first, but you’ll be happier in the long run.

If you’re among the pleasers, the sacrificers, the doers, the martyrs, remember that being a pushover is not a sign of strength but a gap in your leadership.

Strength will come from standing up for yourself, learning to say no, coming up with solutions and being confident. When you stop sacrificing yourself to please others, you can showcase your strengths.

Lead from within: The worst way to lead is to try to please everyone, because you end up pleasing no one—least of all yourself.


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The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR,, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

  1. Md Munir Hossain

    28. Sep, 2019

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