Ask Vicki: How can I be more assertive at work?

In this answer on Quora, Monster career expert Vicki Salemi tells you how to stand up for yourself—and your career.

Ask Vicki: How can I be more assertive at work?

Each week, Monster’s career expert Vicki Salemi—a former recruiter who utilizes 15-plus years of experience in recruiting and human resources to empower job seekers—answers user questions on Quora. We’ll be republishing the answers here. If you have a question for Vicki, send it to

Vicki Salemi

Q. How can I be more assertive at work?

A. If you want to be stronger and gain more muscle mass, you need to start working out and lifting weights. Similarly, you can become more assertive by flexing your vocal cords and speaking up more often. It really is that simple.

You need to create opportunities to take a stand—anywhere. This may feel foreign to you and toss you from your comfort zone, but you can ease into it with small exercises that don’t feel too scary.

Let’s say there are bagels in your office and someone asks who wants the cinnamon raisin bagel that you’ve been eyeing. That’s a prime opportunity to say, “I’d like that one.” Okay, so this is not really related to your job per se, but it’s a chance to claim something for yourself while also interacting with colleagues.

Doing this will help you become more aware of other similar situations. The next time someone tries to dump a job on your already-overloaded plate, push back: “I wish I could help you with this, but I have x, y, and z to finish by tomorrow, and those are my priorities at the moment.” If you’re in a meeting and a colleague takes credit for something you both worked on, amplify that little voice in your head and say, “I worked on that, too, and what I discovered was x, y, and z.”

Above all, don’t be hard on yourself for not being more assertive in the past and instead, applaud yourself for wanting to become more assertive moving forward. In due time, you will build up your assertiveness just like a muscle.

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Read Vicki Salemi's answer to "How can I be more assertive at work?" on Quora.