Self-Awareness in the Workplace

Self-Awareness in the Workplace

By Anne Miller


Because we could all use an Emily Post for the workplace.

By Anne Miller

Say you want a raise. Or to inspire your underlings. Or to get your bosses to endorse your plan of action. How do you go about trying to get your way? Are you aggressive? Not aggressive enough? Did you hit it Goldilocks-right?  

Whatever you think you are — persuader or aggressor, collaborator or inspirer — you’re probably wrong. As far as self-awareness in the workplace goes, most of us totally suck. So says a new series of studies from Columbia Business School

57 percent

of participants in the study who came across to their peers as under-assertive thought they had been too assertive or just assertive enough, while

56 percent

of participants who were judged over-assertive thought they weren’t so assertive. 

The studies, which tracked students in Columbia’s negotiation courses and queried 500 adults online, sought to suss out the difference between how we perceive ourselves and how our co-workers perceive us. 

“People seen as getting assertiveness right often mistakenly think they’ve gotten it wrong,” the researchers found. Meanwhile, “Many people seen by others as under-assertive or over-assertive think they’re appropriately assertive.”


It turns out this is a big deal, because your self-perception can affect your behavior, like the way you advocate on behalf of yourself or improve your work. The study found that folks who thought they were too assertive were likelier to cave in negotiations, as a way of compensating for their perceived pushiness. 

“These negotiators were attempting costly repairs for something that wasn’t broken,” the researchers noted. 

Maybe this is one time it’s not a great idea to follow your gut, but instead to take to heart the opinions of others. Everyone needs a mirror sometimes.