The line between professional and personal life is becoming blurry day by day. It is not uncommon to have your boss ask for a report at 8 pm.
And with the continued advancement of technology, such situations are going to be commonplace.
However, this is no way to live. If you are in such a situation, it is time to put some boundaries in place. Here is how you go about setting boundaries at your workplace.
Communication is the oxygen that keeps relationships alive. It is no different in the workplace. Therefore, communicate upfront when you take up a new job about your boundaries. It will save you from having to set them down the line.
For example, when you start a new job, you can say you have a family, and you do not work past 7 pm. It will save you the trouble of setting the boundary much later when people have gotten used to working with you past 7 pm.
So, what if you never set your boundaries from the get-go? Fear not.
You can still set them. However, the key will be for you to communicate with confidence and be assertive about your new boundary.
Expect some resistance if your boundary will mean people changing behavior. Nonetheless, stick to your guns, and they will eventually come around.
The rest of the points in this article will be the reassertion of this tip on communication.
2) Bring up a boundary or violation right away
Once you have clearly articulated your boundaries, expect them to be respected or violated. In case there is a violation, bring it up immediately. Never let it slide.
For instance, you have created a boundary that every Wednesday at 5 pm you leave the office to go to your daughters’ recital. However, one Wednesday at 4:50 pm, your colleague piles work on your desk and say it has to be done by 6 pm. How would you go about it?
Politely bring up your boundary and say you do not work past 5 pm on Wednesday since you are going to your daughters’ recital. So, if they need it done, it will have to wait until Thursday morning.
While restating your boundary, be very confident. If you are not used to being assertive, this is the time to be.
This will be the difference between your boundaries being respected or continuously violated. In some instances, your workmates may be testing you to see if you can break your boundaries, do not fall for it.
3) Create a structure
Going with the flow has been romanticized in some workplaces. However, this will not cut it, especially when establishing boundaries in the workplace.
With boundaries, you have to create structure if they are to be respected.
For example, if you have a manager who keeps coming by your desk to check on your work, and it derails you, you can suggest having a 15-minute daily brief.
So, you would go ahead and set up the time, have an agenda, and when the time for the brief comes, stick to your mission. This will eliminate the distractions of them dropping by your desk, and let you concentrate on your work.
It may feel intimidating at first, but creating a structure will help you implement your boundaries.
4) Say No
Nobody wants to be labeled “difficult to work with” or “not a team player”. Once you have these labels in the workplace, they are difficult to shake off, and more often than not, they will compromise your chances of moving ahead.
However, that does not mean you should be a people pleaser and pick up everything on your desk. So, how do you say no, without looking like a jerk?
Picture your boss wants to assign you a new project while you already have one ongoing that is demanding on you. To say no, you could say, “I cannot take up this project right now, because I have project Y going on. If I take up another project, we will lose money with this client.” Any sensible boss, will see your sense and take your no.
5) Prepare for violations
In a perfect world, everyone respects boundaries. However, in a world like the one we live in, be ready for your boundaries to be violated. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
It will save you from being hijacked whenever your boundaries do get violated.
For example, if your manager sends you an email past 7 pm, ignore it, and when you start your workday the following day, respond by saying you do not respond to emails past 7 pm because you are with family, but now you are responding.
By doing this, you reinforce your boundaries, and you never fall into the trap of replying to emails past 7 pm.
If you are not used to setting boundaries at work, you may feel like a fish out of water when you start establishing them. Your colleagues and bosses may have a tough time adjusting to your new normal. Nonetheless, set them because they will protect your well being in the long run.