Boundaries are vital to keeping us on track and in check.
✅They keep us safe.
✅They help us manage our time.
✅They reduce stress.
✅They increase productivity.
✅They minimize conflict.
✅They help us grow.
✅They help us cultivate healthy relationships.
✅They protect our mental space and capacity.
Yet boundaries are not universal. They vary by generation, ethnicity, cultural norms, values, upbringing, etc. Further, boundaries are personal. Self-honoring. Unique to YOU.
In other words, my boundaries aren’t yours. Yours aren’t mine. And that’s 100% okay. 💯
Interestingly, boundaries haven’t always been a thing…especially at work.
It wasn’t until the end of the 20th century that “boundaries” became part of the office lexicon. This was fueled by various factors: more women in the workforce juggling family, the rise of technology blurring working hours, meetings spanning multiple time zones, the increase in therapy for mental health, and a global pandemic. Finally, the understanding of and need for boundaries grew. Progress. 🙌
While boundaries are essential and a form of self-care, they can be taken too far. Become excessive. Rigid. Unreasonable.
When this happens, you can damage otherwise strong relationships, limit advancement or convey an unintended message of, “I’m inflexible. Deal with it.”
How do you know if you are inflexible? Ask yourself these 5 crucial questions:
❓Do I feel lonely, left out or disconnected?
❓Do my teammates or manager routinely complain that I am inflexible?
❓Am I unable to compromise in relationships where there is mutual respect and support?
❓Am I missing out on opportunities to grow or advance?
❓Am I protecting myself because I fear failure, rejection, or vulnerability?
If any of these resonate with you, it might be time to expand your boundaries. And if you’re new to the concept of setting boundaries, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Setting Healthy Boundaries – 5 Common Scenarios
In setting or resetting boundaries, often what we need most are the words to express what we want – but finding those exact words can be difficult. Here are some examples of setting boundaries across common situations:
Time boundary ⏰
Based on company expectations, communicate your hours of availability with as much early notification as possible, such as “I have a hard stop at 5:00 today so if you need anything from me before then, please let me know by noon so I can prioritize my time to meet your needs.” Or if you have family obligations in the morning, “It’s best for me if we can schedule team meetings at 9 am or later so that I can be fully present.”
Communication boundary 💬
If emails and texts keep coming all weekend, identify if there is an urgent need. If yes, try to flex to help your teammate. If it’s an ongoing offense from an overzealous colleague with no appreciation of personal time, put your phone on Do Not Disturb and set your email notification to “I am unavailable to respond to your message. I’ll get back to you promptly when I return Monday morning.”
Task boundary 📊
It’s common to be tasked outside of core job responsibilities. Work evolves and everyone must adapt. But if the task requires picking up your manager’s dry cleaning or setting up their home Wi-Fi, consider flexing one time and then saying, “I can see you’re in a pinch. I’m happy to jump in to take care of this for you right now. In the future, this would be great for an intern, or I can help you find a service for these administrative requests.”
Social boundary 🤝
When colleagues gather to bond or socialize, try to participate from time to time to foster relationships. If you don’t have the energy or interest and want to avoid gossiping or alcohol (or want to go home), that is okay. You can say, “Have a great time. I have another commitment tonight. Catch you tomorrow at the office.”
Physical boundary 🙅♀️
If someone hugs you or touches you inappropriately, you can react calmly and directly by saying (ideally in a side conversation), “I felt uncomfortable when you touched me. Please respect my need for safety and professionalism in our interactions.”
Have you established boundaries that work for you? If so, we’d love to hear your story! Or do you have a question about boundaries not answered here? Send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and if selected, it will be featured in our next newsletter.