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The difference between being assertive and being a jerk at work

The problem I find with most people who find it difficult to negotiate, or otherwise take the proper credit for their work is that they don’t want to come off as a bitch or a jerk at work.


Assertive: Confident, Self-Assured, Firm, Strong, Capable

Jerk: Sneaky, Back-Stabbing, Weak, Liar, Thief

Now do you think you’re a jerk?

Jerks are sneaky, and will show up just at the right time of the project to claim some or all of the credit for its success. Assertive people will always work hard and try their best to make even the worst of projects, as successful as possible.

Jerks back stab others to make themselves look better. Assertive people praise others who deserve the recognition they otherwise would not get!

Jerks are weak, so they try to take other stronger team members down to make themselves look comparable or better. Assertive people try and strengthen others.

Jerks lie to people and try to showcase themselves in the best light, putting the blame on others. Assertive people don’t lie, and they assume the blame if something went wrong on the project, and work hard to fix it.

Jerks steal credit that isn’t rightfully theirs. Assertive people don’t because it isn’t theirs to take.


It’s nice to be humble and modest, and it is in our cultural nature to NOT brag and boast about anything that we do.

Forget all of that at work.

No one is going to recognize your hard work if you don’t recognize it first.

You don’t need to be a jerk and all up in their face with how important and amazing you are on the project — you just need them to come to the conclusions on their own by making sure they are kept up to date on what you’re doing, and you are giving them concrete numbers and statistics to use.

You can still be humble and modest at work, but if you acknowledge and recognize your value to the company, others will too.


If you did the whole project on your own, and someone helped fetch a file folder for it, the credit is yours to rightfully hog.

Don’t say “Oh So-and-So helped me with the bulk of it” — you’re just giving away credit in a move to try and be modest when you should be proud of your work!

If you are in a team effort, you KNOW what you were responsible for. Make sure the project manager knows that, by bringing it up in status updates or during performance reviews.

“When I was working on Project H, I made sure we we made every deadline.”

“When I was working on Project K, I kept my utilization rate above the average.”


Some people just can’t schmooze because they feel fake, and they don’t want to be THAT guy or girl.

In that case, find the balance for yourself.

Muster up the courage every status update to say what YOU have done that week and highlight important things, rather than letting your team leader speak and use words like “I, I, I, I” rather than “We, We, We”.

If you’ve done something particularly impressive, make sure someone like your manager or a deciding agent in your workplace knows it.

When they ask you: How are things going?

Don’t say: Fine.

Say: Great! I just did F, G, H and I am working on K. I am on track to meet all my deadlines and under budget to boot. I also solved a difficult problem the other day by using N solution.

It’s the little things that people remember when it comes time to think of who was a great employee that year.


  • Domonique

    This is really great advice! As someone working as an intern after finishing school and trying to become a full-time employee at this company, I am always looking for ways to show that I am competent. I already show up early, take extra shifts when I can, and I ask for feedback regularly to keep doing what is working in my favor.

    I never even thought about some of the things you mentioned!

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