Are your work days generally productive? Do you spend your work time getting done what you really need to get done? Do your customers and co-workers respect you? Do you feel happy at work? If you said no to any of these questions you may need to set boundaries at work.
How do I know? Years ago I had few boundaries at work (or at home, for that matter). I said yes to every request. I avoided conflict at all costs. I tried to appease everyone around me and paid more attention to what other people thought of me than what I thought of myself. I was unhappy, overworked, stressed, tired, and less reliable than I like to admit! Living without boundaries just wasn’t working for me.
Setting boundaries clarifies expectations and builds trust. Boundaries are keys to time management and work-life balance. Learning to set boundaries took years of practice and I’m still learning. I know I need to set healthy boundaries at work when I start to feel irritable, frustrated, and overwhelmed. Those feelings have been creeping up on me lately and I need to revisit my boundaries.
How to set boundaries at work
Before I can determine if I need to set boundaries, or what boundaries to set, I need to recognize I have a problem, that my life has temporarily become unmanageable. For me that means identifying that I feel irritable, frustrated, and overwhelmed.
As long as I blame other people’s behavior for my problems then I am a victim and my well-being is determined by everyone and everything around me.
When I take responsibility for my own well-being I discover I have choices. I am no longer a victim, I am an active participant in my own success. I decide how to respond, not react, to the situation. I can improve my situation by setting boundaries.
Determine what you are willing and able to do
I can only do my very best with the skills, talents, and tools that I possess today. I will consider my potential as well as my limitations to help me decide what I am truly willing and able to accomplish.
If I’m unable or unwilling to take on a task it is absolutely okay to decline or remove myself from the situation to take care of my mental, physical, and emotional needs. I might tell a boss or client I can’t work this weekend but I can put in an extra hour every day next week.
Define YOUR behavior, not anyone else’s
Setting boundaries is not about limiting anyone else’s behavior but, rather, defining my own. I don’t tell someone else what they can do, I tell them what I’m going to do.
Although I may be tempted to simply ignore an individual that interrupts me frequently, or even tell that person, “stop interrupting me!” but that’s not setting a boundary. Setting a healthy boundary might be to say, “I’m going to turn off my phone and close my door for an hour of uninterrupted work.”
Be honest and don’t make excuses
I’m an honest person yet there are times I have been less-than-honest to avoid conflict with a client or co-worker. The problem with making excuses to to avoid conflict is I remove the opportunity to share mutual respect and trust with others.
Maybe there won’t be a conflict, and if there is, maybe I will handle it with dignity and grace. Instead of making excuses I will simply be honest about what I’m going to do.
Show kindness, respect, and compassion
Setting boundaries is hard. Sometimes people get upset. Sometimes I get upset! Sometimes I don’t like other people’s boundaries.
When setting boundaries, as with all things in life, it’s important to show kindness, respect, and compassion to myself and others. We’re all doing what we can with the tools we have. We all have days of suffering and pain. We all have days of irritability and unreasonableness. I need to be considerate when setting boundaries and not heap too much responsibility on myself or others.
Life is wonderful, perplexing, challenging, and growing! When I set out to set healthy boundaries I don’t always get it right the first time. I take a deep breath and try again.
Image courtesy of anemoneprojectors