Effective Assertive Behavior in the Workplace: Responding to Unfair Criticism


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Keithia Wilson, School of Applied Psychology, Griffith University, Mt. Gravatt, Q 4111, Australia. E-mail: K.L.Wilson@mailbox.gu.edu.au


A social rules perspective was employed to identify the elements of socially appropriate responses to unfair criticism in the workplace. Women generally endorsed for themselves response strategies based on stronger obligation and softer rights components, while men endorsed responses based on stronger personal rights expression and weaker obligation components. In support of the utility of a social rules approach to operationalizing context-specific expectations, behavioral responses based on gender and status-specific rules were evaluated as more effective on task, relationship, and self-respect dimensions than were rights-only, rights-plus-empathy, or submissive strategies. Results are discussed in terms of the development of a context-specific model of interpersonal competence and implications for interpersonal skills and assertion training.