Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
Print version ISSN 0041-4751
MINNAAR, Philip; MYBURGH, Chris and POGGENPOEL, Marie. The experience of late adolescents of assertiveness in the work environment. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2012, vol.52, n.3, pp. 435-450. ISSN 0041-4751.
This research focuses on the experience of late adolescents of assertiveness in the work environment. The development of people's social skills stems from and is maintained by means of interaction with other people. This is a crucial stage of development during late adolescence when proficiency in work ethics, relationships and especially assertiveness should be shaped, as these have direct bearing on the situation when someone does not act in an assertive manner in the work environment. People who are able to act in an assertive manner are capable of expressing their feelings, thoughts and convictions without any aggression, in a non-destructive way, and to act in neither an extremely controlling nor an inappropriately reticent manner. The researchers became aware of the fact that the behaviour, social skills and especially the assertiveness of a number of late adolescents at a specific private technical training college, given their age, appeared inappropriate in the workplace. They communicate ineffectively and are not able to verbalise expectations regarding their needs in the work environment. The researchers wondered whether these adolescents would be able to communicate in an adult manner with employees, as well as to what extent they would be able to take a stand solely on their own behalf, when having to contend with possible challenges in the work environment. The emancipation of late adolescents often gives rise to mixed emotions experienced by them. They simultaneously look forward to and fear the process of becoming adults, often resulting in their withdrawing themselves. Other persons often tend to view them as being incompetent. They strive after independence and criticise any boundaries, which in turn often involves them in conflict. They reveal low quality problem-solving skills that relate to superficial intra- and interpersonal skills in relationships with other persons. A postmodern constructivist paradigm (Creswell 2007:20-21) was followed in this research. This qualitative, explorative and descriptive research investigated the experience of assertiveness of late adolescents in the work environment. The aims were to explore and describe the manner in which late adolescents experience their own assertiveness in relation to superiors, peers and subordinates in the work environment. The students were invited to participate in the research. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the participants and applicable scenarios were used. The data was analysed by applying Tesch's open coding approach (Babbie & Mouton 2006:276,277). After the data had been analysed, it was established that late adolescents find it difficult, feel exposed and experience distress in communicating their needs. They also experience being unjustly blamed and need tangible substantiation in order to prove their perceived innocence. They are easily intimidated by superiors, which causes them to settle for the preferences of other people. When they experience that they are backed into a corner, they tend to use aggressive language and behaviour. They employ coping mechanisms to gain control of the situation, resulting in physical and psychological dissociation from the problem. Alternatively they will consider resigning and start looking for other employment. Guidelines for the facilitation of assertive behaviour among late adolescents are given in order to enable them to act assertively in the work environment. These guidelines further focus on self-acceptance and self-awareness, developing an internal locus of control, and eliciting manners in which stress and anxiety can be managed. Finally, the development of constructive communication skills is addressed.
Keywords : Late adolescent; assertiveness; workplace; interpersonal relationship; passive behaviour; distress; coping mechanisms.