Assertiveness is key in risk management (2)

“Being assertive does not mean attacking or ignoring others’ feelings. It means you are willing to hold up to yourself squarely, without attacking others”…….Albert Ellis

Last week, we examined the need for continued assertiveness by bank staff despite the changing scenarios in banking. Once again, I wish to emphasize the appreciation of readers to differentiate assertiveness from aggressiveness.

When a person acts aggressively, they ignore the feelings of others and almost never show appreciation towards them. Such attitudes can result in undesirable consequences for those who are communicating, as aggressiveness often hinders the taking of positive steps forward.

Perception about Assertive Persons

How do your bosses regard an assertive person? Sometimes there is a perception that some leaders do not like assertive persons. I genuinely do not believe so. The fact is, assertiveness has been a communication tool in the workplace since the mid-seventies. Assertiveness is a positive communication style, forward-looking, problem-solving and based on negotiation. It recognises that both, or all parties in any situation have needs, rights and responsibilities, and it helps move the situation towards the best outcome.

Some people are born assertive – naturally confident communicators with sensitivity towards others. Others have to learn the skills, some finding it easy, some taking more time. Everyone’s assertiveness varies according to the situation they are in, the personalities they face, and their current mood.

If you are a Supervisor, you should believe in encouraging people to ask the right questions on the job, instead of just telling them what to do and leaving them to their fate. This creates success and pushes people to be successful. Asking the right questions gives people the answers they need to perform their functions well, as well as moving forward in their career and their private lives.


  • We learn the fundamentals of the job through questions.

It is scientifically proven that we learn about life by asking questions. In the banking field, staff who ask more questions, learn the cause-and-effect relationship much more quickly and, most importantly, the banking concepts behind transactions to be effected. Don’t forget that although the principles have not changed, banking itself has now evolved into a highly technological arena.

  • The more we question, the better answers we get.

Unfortunately, as we go up the organizational ladder and our responsibilities grow, some of us stop asking questions and sometimes settle down with mediocrity, with very few options to work with. After all, we feel that people expect us to understand virtually everything, so we relax and feel every decision taken is the best and should not be challenged.

  • The quality of our service delivery depends on questions we ask and our understanding of the answers given.

The quality of our service delivery as well as risk management is directly related to the quality of our thinking and assimilation of the policies and processes. Questions are the driving force behind thinking.

  • Questioning makes you wiser.

When you become more open-minded, you become receptive to many different perspectives. The more you ask, the more practical cases you appreciate. Your increased awareness makes you a better analyst and a decision maker. When you are learning anything new, start by asking yourself simple but deep questions. When we ask questions and understand the reason behind certain policies, the easier it gets to accept ourselves and to take charge in ensuring best practices are maintained in our banking career.

  • Mastery over the Job

As a manager, are you aware that staff who ask searching questions are those who master the job early? Obviously that mastery also helps you control your risk, doesn’t it? In establishing a positive culture for controlling risks, you must ensure there is adequate training, knowledge and understanding of what risk is, its implications, management and mitigation.


Are you a leader? Respect your subordinates’ rights and views if you want them to do so. Never underestimate anyone. Listen to others so that they also listen to you with patience and rapt attention. Be polite to others and never hide your feelings. If you are correct, you will be accepted by each and everyone in the society as well as workplace.

Assertive people, when encouraged, can be a source of innovative ways of doing certain things especially in the risk environment. Every new bank product or service introduced has its pros and cons, but were the potential risks considered before their launch? Were the implementation team on the shop floor properly guided to do the right thing? Were they taken through test runs for their opinion on user acceptance? How skillful are they in managing technological disruptions using soft skills? Remember that a customer who is out of sight is not out of mind.

The Young professional

Is your main ambition to achieve to the top of your profession? By all means press on, but remember there will be times that you have to stand for truth and transparency.  You may be in a complex situation like a jungle warfare because you were instructed to do something that turns out to be in contravention of the rules and regulations. Be sure that your assertiveness does not result in rudeness and insubordination to the bosses.

Assertiveness At Meetings: With the introduction of several virtual platforms for meetings, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, you will find yourself included in meetings previously restricted to senior management. This is a good opportunity to express yourself in front of your seniors. If you have noticed some areas of conflict such as lack of segregation of duties, divulging of confidential information, lax controls and transparency in some dealings, lack of reconciliation of some transactions, late responses to customers’ problems, etc. Let us see how you can go about it using your assertive skills:

  • Prepare well with updated and correct data before the meeting, never losing sight that it is your best shot to sell yourself while remaining professional.
  • Speak your mind and support what is professional in a SUBTLE and POLITE manner.
  • Learn to be patient. People who have a tendency to rush things often make mistakes and lose confidence.
  • Check your emotions. Never mix your personal life with your professional life.
  • Choose your words carefully. Honesty and truthfulness help you being assertive and confident. You do not have to fear about anything such as getting caught and so on.

Assertiveness with Colleagues:

Perhaps you have noticed that some directives issued by management are not being adhered to by colleagues. These may include:

  • Continuous use of physical paperwork instead of transferring data through file sharing for authorization.
  • Remotely working from home and yet sharing passwords, leading to customer data compromises.
  • Pretending to work from home and yet working under compromising environments.
  • False claims of having had discussions, visited or monitored customers’ business as a loan monitoring strategy.
  • False claims of stock-taking at customers’ premises.
  • Deliberately diverting customers’ funds to wrongful accounts before reversals.

The list goes on. When given the chance, do not compromise on these situations since they will come back to haunt you. Instead of confrontation, you can assertively discuss these with the colleague involved, highlighting the potential dangers. Some may be ignorant about the implications.

Behavioural Skills for Managers:

Dear managers, let us examine some assertive behavioural traits that will reinforce your assertive skills:

  • Take responsibilities and delegate.
  • Compliment others regularly on their achievements.
  • Admit your mistakes and apologize when you are wrong.
  • Don’t be a conformist; look for new experiences and alternatives to improve your professional and personal life.
  • Do not let other people imposeorders on you if these go against your principles or desires.
  • Avoid being manipulated.
  • Assertiveness involves communicatingyour viewpoint without anyone walking all over you, while respecting
  • Be opento expressing thoughts, desires and feelings. Encourage others to do the same.
  • Listen to the opinions and adviceof others. Take good advice and reject bad ones  gently, to avoid offence.

My final thoughts

If you are a leader, respect your subordinates’ rights and views if you want them to do so. Never underestimate anyone. Listen to others so that they also listen to you with patience and rapt attention. Meanwhile always be polite to your bosses but never hide your feelings. If you are correct, you will be accepted by each and everyone in the society as well as workplace.


Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of Three books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story” and “The Modern Branch Manager’s Companion”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.


Website www.alkanbiz.com

Email:alberta@alkanbiz.com  or albique@yahoo.com

Tel: +233-0244333051/+233-0244611343

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