Training Team Performance-related Assertiveness

A number of recent authors have argued the need for greater levels of specificity in our understanding of "why, when, and for whom a particular type of training is most effective." The three studies reported here have attempted to respond to this need by examining the determinants of team member assertiveness. In contrast to previous assertiveness research, each of these studies used participants from a nonclinical population, evaluated behavior in the context of task-related team member interaction, and operationalized assertiveness using a set of behaviors that have been linked to improved team decision making including: providing performance feedback to a team member, addressing perceived ambiguities and potential problems, stating and maintaining opinions, offering potential solutions, initiating action, offering and requesting assistance or backup when needed.

What stands out most from these studies is that assertiveness is a multi-dimensional skill that individuals apply in a situation-specific manner. First, it was demonstrated that team performance-related assertive behavior, as defined here, is related to Lorr and More's directiveness and independence dimensions and relatively independent from defense of interests and social assertiveness. Second, our findings indicated that relationships among multiple measures of the same assertive responses differed significantly as a function of interpersonal context (i.e., personal, stranger, work related). Given these results, it appears important that measures designed to select individuals for work team positions assess only response types associated with directiveness and independence and specify a team context.

Although it is generally recognized that experiential learning techniques are superior to conventional lecture formats, the cost effectiveness of the latter remains appealing to organizations. Moreover, shrinking personnel budgets often dictate that training is given by individuals who are not training specialists, do not have the skills, and do not feel comfortable facilitating role-play exercises and providing performance feedback. Therefore, it is of value to know when practice and feedback are essential training mechanisms and when simpler and less costly interventions will suffice.