Setting Boundaries in the Workplace
All you need to know about setting boundaries in the workplace
Setting boundaries at work has very positive outcomes for the whole team. Keep reading to find out how!
How do we set boundaries at work? Well, let’s start explaining it with an example. All of us (or almost all of us) know in which situations we’d rather a handshake or a hug, right? That’s because we know when and how to establish our physical boundaries. However, when it comes to recognizing and understanding our mental boundaries, things get a bit trickier for a few reasons. The first one is that these boundaries are intangible. The second is because they are likely to be needed in specific contexts such as within the family, in social situations or (yes) at work where there is potential for greater emotional burden.
Specifically, in the workplace, this emotional burden is related to a fear of losing our position. And that fear can lead us to normalize certain situations that make us feel bad. If you’re ever going through a time when you feel your boundaries have been crossed, you’ll experience feelings like discomfort, resentment and guilt. Perhaps it’s obvious that working like this can’t be healthy for anyone, but you’d be surprised how many people think this is normal. How do we fix it?
- Identify your needs and values. Which situations bother you? What words or expressions wind you up? Asking yourself these questions will often help you lay out your needs and values to start setting some professional boundaries, even although (we know!) it’s a process that requires time, patience and work on your emotional inteligence. You’ll feel all the better for it in the end though!
- Recognize the positive side of the word “no”. How? Say no to your manager? Although this situation is unthinkable, sometimes it’s necessary, especially if you’re going over the limits of your schedule and responsibilities. Obviously though, if you’re going to refuse a request from your superior, it’s important to offer an alternative. Let’s give an example: your manager asks you to take on a project you weren’t hired for. Well, make it clear that if something goes wrong, the responsibility can’t rest solely on you. Learning to say “no” is the big WHAT of the world of work, not only from the point of view of the employee but of the manager as well. If you’re a team leader, it’s important to work on finding out the need and urgency behind each request from the members of your team and thus avoid any abuse of your trust.
- Make sure you’ve got a backup. Taking your free time seriously is also a way of setting boundaries at work. If you’ve decided not to work after hours, on the weekend or during your holidays, make sure you have a co-worker to take on your workload during that specific time and make it clear in advance what your availability is. That way you can have your phone on silent and enjoy your time off.
- Communicate on the spot when something or someone has crossed the line. If you don’t do it straightaway, you’ll lose any effect if you bring it up later. Remember, if you want to be taken seriously, leave your emotions out and speak in the calm of the here and now. In fact, learning to efficiently communicate your limits at work is one of the keys to becoming an excellent leader. Take note and start working on it!
- Finally, it’s important to remember that boundaries at work are personal, so don’t compare yours with those of others and don’t let your boundaries keep you from asking for help, since sometimes we think that what bothers us can also annoy others, and that’s not always the case.
Learning and maintaining professional boundaries at work brings benefits to everyone, such as building a positive working environment, where each individual gets the trust and respect they deserve. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to work in a place like that?