Project Management

Emotional Assertiveness: A Key to Deeper Collaboration

Amy Whicker started her career as a computer science professor. She taught many computer languages and the theory behind waterfall and agile. After nine years of teaching, Amy decided to transition into industry, where she played many different roles on agile teams and became an instant agile enthusiast. Amy is active in the agile community. She was one of the lead organizers for the Mile High Agile 2017 conference in Denver and spoke on failure at the 2017 Southern Fried Agile Conference in Charlotte, NC. She now uses her skills acquired as a professor and an agile team member to coach and consult on agile growth and transformation. Visit Amy at

Innovative solutions require high levels of ongoing collaboration and feedback, intermingled with periods of focused creation—i.e., getting into the “zone.” One of the keys to creating engaging collaboration is emotional assertiveness. In the absence of emotional assertiveness, we fall into fear-based environments that can cause us to respond with emotionally aggressive or passive behavior. Extended periods of emotional aggression and/or passivity can create disengagement in the more passive participants—and a gap between reality and expectation for all participants.

Disengagement in our organizations is a global concern, with the numbers of disengaged employees reaching as high as 70% and 80%. Disengagement is one way we avoid drama and avoid our feelings. Yet, what is it doing to our companies’ ability to collaborate, function or grow?

When we feel we have the choice to speak up (or to let go of control), then we can all actively engage in solutions together. Collaboration gives us a sense of ownership and places us all in a purpose-driven environment. We become creators, innovators and experimenters—and we are hungry for others’ perspective to drive us through the unknown path of invention together.

What is emotional assertiveness?
Emotional assertiveness happens when we can have the courage to say what we feel and think …

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