Part 9: Setting Boundaries At Work
People struggle with setting boundaries within the workplace, but when you consider all the time they spend at work, having workplace boundaries is essential to health and happiness.
The Case for Workplace Boundaries
Professional boundaries guard against burnout and feeling unfulfilled in the workplace.
Workplace boundaries prevent you from pushing your physical, emotional, and mental limits. And they’re protection against over-committing, being manipulated by fear, or being unethical.
Additionally, professional boundaries protect your energy, so you’re more productive in and out of the workplace.
How to Set Workplace Boundaries
People are reluctant to set workplace boundaries because they don’t want to do anything to jeopardize their income and career.
Whereas unreasonable, disrespectful boundaries may lead to job loss, having reasonable boundaries will likely help you fulfill your professional goals. It’s important to set boundaries that promote a more productive, happier, and healthier you, and that support your colleagues.
Controlling versus Healthy Workplace Boundaries
You want to create healthy workplace boundaries versus controlling boundaries. Controlling boundaries are inflexible and inconsiderate of other people. These types of boundaries can easily lead to you being demoted or not promoted, disliked, or perhaps even fired.
Establish healthy and flexible boundaries that are beneficial to both you and your place of work. Expressing these boundaries can feel awkward at first, but most employers and coworkers will likely respect them.
Creating Healthy Workplace Boundaries
When creating professional boundaries, consider how you feel during the day. Are there any people or actions that make you feel extremely anxious, overwhelmed, or upset? If so, then these might be appropriate areas and situations for boundaries.
Additionally, consider how much work you have on your plate. Do you feel overwhelmed? And do you think about work and feel stressed when home? If so, consider setting boundaries relating to work/life balance.
How to Express Boundaries to Your Boss and Coworkers
After you’ve created some professional boundaries that are flexible and respectful of your colleagues, it’s important to share them with your boss.
Instead of going to your supervisor with your boundaries as a kind of ultimatum, consider sharing your concerns about why you felt it was necessary for you to create these boundaries.
Genuinely seek their input and counsel on making the boundaries even better for you as an employee and your coworkers. Be flexible and willing to compromise; collaborate. You’ll be amazed at what having the right spirit and attitude can do.
Professional boundaries aren’t meant to punish or control but protect relationships and foster productivity in the workplace; they’re not ultimatums.
When creating workplace boundaries, approach your boss and coworkers in a spirit of conversation and negotiation and not in controlling, demanding spirit.
Share your concerns and desires using assertive language and “I” statements.
After much thought and careful consideration, submit your boundaries to your boss or supervisor. List exactly what your boundaries entail and why you created these particular boundaries. Invite your boss and coworkers to ask questions so they can fully understand your boundaries. Consider their input and feedback to gain their support; this isn’t a one-way street.
Sincerely consider the situation and strive to understand their perspective. Be flexible with your boundaries and prepared to tweak them. Be willing to compromise. Remember, this is a negotiation. Strive for a win-win. All parties should feel respected, heard, and served.
What to Do if You Experience Push back
If you follow the above process, your boss and coworkers will likely respect and support you and your boundaries, especially if you’re shouldering your share of the load and they see you’re not trying to shirk responsibilities. But, here’s what you should consider doing if your boss and coworkers push back and are unwilling to consider your boundaries:
1. Restate why you felt you needed to create the boundary.
Explain why you feel it’s necessary to your productivity and health to have this boundary. Work to clear up any confusion or misunderstanding. If the misunderstanding is resolved, they might not push back anymore. Sincerely listen to understand their thoughts and concerns while expressing your own.
2. Explore a compromise
If you’ve cleared up all misunderstandings but someone is still pushing back, see if you and the other person can compromise. All boundaries should be flexible, especially those in the workplace. Both parties must feel respected and heard. Forging a compromise is a way to protect your needs while respecting the company and serving the other coworker’s needs.
3. Don’t be a doormat.
If the other person is unreasonable and unwilling to compromise, don’t be a doormat because you’re equally important to the company. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied, threatened, or intimidated. Respectfully but firmly, let them know that you will not change your boundary unless they’re willing to compromise as well.
Create professional boundaries that are respectful and flexible to your boss and coworkers. Communicate boundaries clearly and firmly but kindly. Approach the conversation as a negotiation. And if you experience push back, restate the boundary and why you created it. Lastly, always be flexible and willing to compromise, but don’t be a doormat when being bullied, threatened, or intimidated. If all else fails, you may need to consider taking the matter up with your Human Resources department.
Workplace boundaries are essential to your health and productivity.