Learning how to set boundaries is an essential part of modern work culture. You may often be tempted to say yes to things, be it extra hours or additional responsibilities, but this will only call for stress and burnout. Therefore, you must set boundaries at work. While learning how to set boundaries at work may require some practice, it will help you avoid uncomfortable situations in the future.
How to Set Boundaries at Work
In this article, we will look at five techniques that will help you set boundaries at work.
Create Your Reputation
Most people feel that reputation is what others have to say about you. However, your reputation is much more than that. Therefore, how you behave with your colleagues and what kind of boundaries you establish with them hint at what they can and cannot say about you. According to Michael Josephson, the world-renowned expert on character education for youth and ethical conduct in business, policing, journalism, government, law, healthcare, and sports, “What you allow, you encourage.”
You cannot expect people to abide by the boundaries you set at the workplace if you are not comfortable with direct communication. Being articulate is about carefully navigating through layers of conversation to understand something more comprehensively. Being articulate involves avoiding assumptions.
Hence if you are uncertain about something, it is better to ask questions. It also means saying ‘yes’ only when you are in complete agreement. If you agree to something even though your instincts are dead against it, it can signal to the other party that you may be okay with something. It also helps build integrity if you only say ‘yes’ when you mean it. Your coworkers also become accustomed to the fact that when you say something, it represents your thoughts accurately. It helps build trust.
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If you can give your feedback in real time, then it can set the tone for future interactions and how you want them to go. You can create professionalism with your coworkers by responding in real time. This gives the impression that you value their time, effort, and contribution.
According to Linda Esposito, a licensed clinical social worker writer and psychotherapist from Pasadena, California, if you give your feedback in a timely manner, you demonstrate confidence in your message and respect for the recipient. Apart from timely communication, choice communication is equally critical. People might relish watercooler talk, but if you can stay clear of gossiping, it would help protect your boundaries and keep others from indulging in your personal affairs.
By choosing company concerns over gossip, you are setting a short but important precedent for what your coworkers can approach you with. Workplace bullying is a rather toxic aspect of the corporate work culture, and its roots can be found in the lack of boundaries at work. However, direct and assertive communication can easily address this issue.
Plan Your Responses
You must plan your responses if you are concerned about your work boundaries. For example, if you are unhappy about something, you can address it with, ‘that doesn’t work for me’. This may be a short message, but it goes a long way in setting boundaries. It not only helps in addressing any potential breach but also offers the scope for any available alternative option.
Such planned responses for boundary-crossing may also prevent you from getting caught off guard. These days most workplaces have a preferred system for addressing such conflicts. It helps if you are aware of your company’s policies, as, in case of any inappropriate incident, it helps you in taking immediate action.
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According to F. Diane Barth, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist in New York, “Boundaries are all about respect — for yourself and for the other person.” If you feel that your colleague has said something inappropriate, and you wish to address it, then you must go for it. If you use boundaries for punishing or penalizing others, then it will not make any difference. In comparison, if you give the impression that you respect the other person, it becomes much easier to communicate that you expect them to respect you equally.
People often confuse setting boundaries at work with developing an attitude. Work boundaries are about self-care, mutual respect, and clear communication. They must not be taken as an excuse to work less than others or be less ambitious than your colleagues. Boundaries at work can also prevent burnout and might help you become more productive in the long run.
However, it is not always easy to set healthy boundaries and be comfortable with them because they may often get in the way of your career advancement. However, you can easily learn to set boundaries at work without being confrontational. All you must do is be mindful and subtle while setting such boundaries.
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