Assertiveness and perception of style of assertiveness among future South African employees
Van Heerden, Rian E.
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This study explored the assertiveness and the person perception of the style of assertiveness among future South African employees. An ethnic comparison was made and gender differences investigated with respect to perceptions of assertion. Regarding the style of assertiveness, prior findings indicate that assertion plus extra consideration (empathic assertiveness) seems to be preferred by test subjects to pure assertion. It is important to note, however, that how a leader is perceived matters a great deal and flexibility in assertiveness is key; it should be appropriate to the situation and take into consideration the assertiveness of the team members. It was also found that persons with low assertion reacted relatively negatively to assertive behaviour. When it comes to the two variables, race and gender, previous research indicates that racial variables are important for assertion (even if it was not as predicted by researchers). Regarding gender, a consistent pattern of sex differences could initially not be found. Later on, research found that the gender variable indeed plays a role in the perception of assertiveness. A non-probability sampling method, namely convenience sampling, was used. The study initially made use of the AI (Assertion Inventory), a 40 item self-report inventory to test the assertiveness of the participants. The mean scores of the different groups were then compared using one-way MANOVAs. In case of a significant value of F, the analyses were followed up by one-way variance analyses to determine on which of the dependent variables significant differences in averages appeared. The Scheffe post hoc t-test was applied to determine between which of the four groups (combination of gender and ethnicity) these differences appeared. Regarding own assertion, the entire group (black males, white males, black females, white females) was more assertive than non-assertive. Concerning the subgroups themselves, major differences were not found between the genders regarding the levels of discomfort experienced, although they did differ in the likelihood of a response. The research did not indicate any differences between the two ethnic groups with regard to their levels of discomfort or probability of action. However, if ethnicity and gender are combined, a clear picture emerged with regard to differences in assertive behaviour. Black males were found to be the most assertive, followed by white females, white males and lastly, black females. Black females experienced higher levels of discomfort and were less likely to act in the situations described by die Assertion Inventory. Regarding the perception of the style of assertiveness in the workplace, the majority of the participants preferred empathic-assertive behaviour. In the case of gender, both genders regarded empathic-assertiveness as the most appropriate and effective. The same applied to the two ethnic groups. It is important to note that significant differences were found between the two genders and two ethnic groups regarding the appropriateness and effectiveness of some of the statements. In the case of the combination of the two, it seems as if black females are less of the opinion that empathic-assertive, assertive or non-assertive behaviour is appropriate in a corporate environment. Black females also seem to regard aggressive behaviour as effective in a corporate environment. According to this study, it seems as if the appropriate and effective manager should communicate with his multi-cultural staff using an empathic-assertive approach with the understanding that employees with low levels of assertiveness (especially young black females) will tend to have a negative view of all forms of assertiveness. Flexibility is indeed the key and the behaviour of a leader should be adjusted depending on the assertiveness of the team members.