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5 Steps for Setting Healthy Boundaries at Work
Boundaries are crucial in the workplace. Regardless of your position, setting clear boundaries at work will help you focus on your job and be more productive. These limits will help you avoid worrying about doing other things that you are not responsible for and overstepping bounds. Without these worries, you will be sure to perform your best at work.
Additionally, by setting limits, you will define expectations. Providers of professional mental health support say that this will allow you to avoid stress which, in turn, will help you enjoy better physical, emotional, and mental health.
Lastly, boundaries at work promote empowerment which, consequently, will enable you to experience career growth and development. This is a goal that you can easily achieve since your personal and professional limits will allow you to identify the areas you want to focus and improve on.
How to Establish Boundaries in the Workplace
Since boundaries serve many functions and offer several benefits, setting them up in your workplace is essential.
Regardless of whether you have only started working or are already a regular employee, here are some tips that will help you get started on establishing your professional and personal limitations at work:
1. Identify your values
Knowing what matters most to you will help you figure out where and how you can set your boundaries in the workplace. By ascertaining your values, you can establish systems that will allow you to meet them. For example, staying physically fit is one of your top priorities. By establishing this as one of your primary goals, you can set a limit on working overtime regularly so that you can work out at the gym after office hours. Additionally, if you value daily family time, you will establish strict boundaries on working overtime or being on-call at all hours.
2. Determine your limits
Knowing your values will help you set clear workplace boundaries. Identifying your limits will enable you to come up with a more comprehensive list. You can create a complete, detailed list by conducting a personal boundary check. This strategy entails pinpointing people, situations, and particular actions that cause you distress or discomfort. You will know if a particular person, situation, or action signals a boundary that needs to be established or communicated if you feel anger, guilt, resentment, or all three whenever you experience them.
3. Communicate these boundaries distinctly
Once you have a list of your limitations, share these with your managers and co-employees. While discussing these limits with them, explain everything in detail. Focus on being honest and being concise during these conversations as well. However, avoid setting all your boundaries at once. Discuss one or two limits first. Keep track of these first, and assess if they work. In case one or more of these limits are not effective, change them, and keep moving forward.
4. Bring up a boundary violation straightaway
Establishing your personal and professional limits is one of the most manageable steps in the whole process. Getting others to recognize and respect them, however, will be more difficult. Waiting for your managers and coworkers to respect them won’t speed up the process. If you want others to comply with these boundaries, if one gets violated, say something immediately. It is crucial to bring it up as soon as possible once the violation happens. If you don’t, your boundary will lose its power. Pointing out the breach immediately will also allow you to let the person violating it understand the importance of your established limit. When bringing up a violation, be considerate. Do not berate the person you are talking to. Keep in mind that many people are likely unaware of how their actions affect you. As such, be compassionate when reporting the violation or speaking with the concerned person.
5. Prepare for setbacks
Finally, once you have established your boundaries, expect a few (or more) people in your workplace to react negatively. Boundary-crossers may even get angry. It is crucial that you don’t let this derail your objective. Instead, take this as a sign that the boundary is necessary and that it is working effectively. Additionally, consider these violations as opportunities to gain insight and improve your boundary-setting process. If you want to set new limits, imagine them getting crossed and think about how you will handle these situations. By doing so, you will be able to handle boundary violations more rationally. You won’t be easily overcome by your emotions. Most of the time, setting boundaries in the workplace is more complicated than it may seem. But if you want to avoid or minimize work-related stress and take control of your life, don’t hesitate to consult a registered clinical psychologist who can help you break free from unhealthy relationships and practices at work.
Justine Corry is a clinical psychologist and enjoys helping people get to the heart of what is not working in their lives. Along with Dr. Gemma Gladstone, she is co-director of the Good Mood Clinic in Sydney and has 10 years of experience within private practice.