Do you find you repeatedly put the needs of your boss, colleagues, family, friends, or even pets ahead of your own needs? Setting boundaries is just as essential to your well-being as water, food, and air. Your boundaries are where you end and where other people begin.
Many of us dedicate a good chunk of our time at work. That work also can spill over into our life at home, where the line between work and life gets blurred. This can mean we feel constantly ‘on’ and ‘available’ for work and this can affect our health and stress levels.
So, creating boundaries around our workplace is critical. Creating boundaries at work can feel risky because there is the real worry of possible repercussions. Yet with clear communication, practice, and preparation it can be done.
Here are 5 tips for setting boundaries and navigating your current workplace.
- Know your values.
What is important to you? Honesty? Trust? Integrity? Understanding your own values will give you a clear path to creating boundaries. By knowing your values, you can identify when your limits are being tested. These become your boundary lines. What you consider to be ok or not ok. For example, you might value your hard work ethic, but that does not mean you are constantly available outside of work hours. Once you are out of the office it is personal time and work can wait until the next day.
- Actively practice applying boundaries.
Actively demonstrate the behaviours you expect from others. If you like people to be on time to meetings, then be on time for meetings too. If you prefer face to face communication and expect it of others, then demonstrate that behaviour. People will quickly learn your boundaries by your actions, rather than you having to tell them.
While actions are important, communication is key. It is up to you to let others know what your boundaries are. In the workplace, it can be difficult to just volunteer them without any context. It might not be until a situation arises when you are able to let others know. For example, when starting a new job, it is important to communicate how available (or not) you will be outside of regular business hours. Of course, this will depend on your role and responsibilities.
- Prepare for a breach of boundaries.
There may be times when boundaries are going to be crossed. Decide ahead of time how you will deal with that situation in terms of how you will respond and act. For example, your boss emails you on the weekend. What will you do? Reply straight away because it is your boss or wait until Monday? Has it become a usual practice or is it a genuine crisis that requires attention? When boundaries are crossed our emotions can take over, so it is important to have a rough plan of action so you can handle the situation rationally.
- Boundaries are there to help us.
View boundaries as cementing positive working relationships rather than walls to keep people out. They can alert us to behaviour that might be harmful in the long run. Breach of boundaries can lead to stress and a breakdown of working relationships.
No matter how uncomfortable it may be for you at first, you will never regret taking care of yourself and letting others know how to treat you. Set yourself up for success by taking the time to investigate your values and clearly communicate them. The more you connect with your boundaries and values, the more you will be able to create a healthy work/life balance.
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