Setting boundaries in the workplace can be tricky because we need others to succeed. Every day we are told constantly that people only thrive when there is a team effort. However, this “success” does have costs. This is where setting boundaries comes in. When you create a boundary with someone, it means that you have erected a psychological and emotional barrier to protect you against what would otherwise be an undesirable circumstance.
What are boundaries?
Boundaries are not just imaginary lines drawn between yourself and other people, but they are the limits of what is acceptable to do with others. It means anything from personal space to respecting feelings, needs, thoughts.
A boundary can be physical like a line on the floor or an obstruction set up to keep out specific individuals, sensory like noise level, cognitive like the topic of conversation, logical connection with present discussion, and emotional like an emotion allowed to be expressed.
Boundaries in the workplace set limits for people to know their responsibilities and indicate what is not in the work environment. You deserve to be respected by your colleagues, employer, and others.
Learning how to set personal boundaries in the workplace will help you navigate your work life with better clarity.
Examples of boundaries
Here are 9 examples of setting boundaries at work:
1. Don’t talk about your personal life
Going to work should be a time when you forget about any other things except for your work. So, regardless of what work you do, never talk about your personal life in a professional environment.
Most people avoid talking about their personal life at work because they do not want to spread private information about themselves around.
And why should you tell your work colleagues anything about your personal life when they don’t share their issues with you? Even if they do, how do you know they are telling the truth?
If you tell people what is going on in your private life, in their eyes, it becomes their business. They may feel entitled to talk about your family because you opened the door yourself.
Your personal life should be kept separate from the work business at all costs. It is simply not appropriate to discuss personal topics at work. For these reasons, it is best to keep your work life and personal life separate.
Read also: 21 Good Examples of Accountability
2. Don’t share your work passwords
Everyone needs to maintain some degree of propriety. Don’t let your login passwords to be floating around for other people in the office to grab. If your company prohibits sharing passwords with others, it could lead to dismissal or termination.
Keep in mind that there are even stricter rules about disclosing company intellectual property that would include passwords.
If someone starts working on your account without authorization it can cause all kinds of unintentional havoc on your machine, like accidental deletion of important files, installing malware, accessing forbidden websites, and many other unintended actions.
It also opens up a person’s private documents stored on their machine while they are logged in to be viewed by another user. So, do not share login credentials for your account with anyone.
3. Don’t give unsolicited advice
Be aware of your boundaries and understand your role. You may feel compelled to give unsolicited advice to your boss because you want to be helpful. But unsolicited advice can make a manager feel less competent and do more harm than good in some cases.
So, unless someone has asked, avoid giving unsolicited advice, especially to your superiors or managers, when not asked for it because you can come across as arrogant or being too dominant. If your manager wants to know about something, they will ask you.
Some people feel insecure or uncomfortable when subordinates correct their work. The reasons for this reaction are varied, from person to person, but generally speaking, it comes down to a lack of trust, confidence, and in some cases, an inferiority complex.
4. Establish clear rules of engagement
Being committed to your work can sometimes leave you exposed to exploitation and even abuse.
There are people in the workplace who come up with all kinds of reasons why you should do something for them — even if it means you have to stay behind or come in on weekends.
They like to throw their workloads on those likely to not say no. It often happens to those who remain silent because they are afraid of being seen as lazy, uncooperative, or just unwilling to help.
If you feel that the demands on your time and energy are hurting you, then there is a way to show those who try to take advantage of you that they cannot always do that. Do not take everything that comes your way.
You may love your work and what you do, but that alone is not a reason to agree with everything that comes across your desk just because people asked.
Put an end to this by establishing clear rules of engagement. This means drawing boundaries on the job by not taking on extra tasks without prior discussion.
5. Be clear about when work ends
Some people love their jobs so much that they do not mind staying late and working through their lunch break. You might even feel loved by your boss because you work hard and put in more hours than your work colleagues.
There is nothing wrong with working hard and taking pride in your work. Also, it is more satisfying and rewarding to exceed their expectations. However, do not sacrifice your health to achieve this.
But when people are committed to their jobs, it gets hard to separate work and home life. It is dangerous if you don’t realize that your work is becoming an addiction.
Know where work ends and when home begins — otherwise, you will burn out. If you stay back at work regularly, you may be overworking yourself. Do not become a victim of workaholism.
Read also: 11 Examples of Weaknesses in a Person
6. Don’t allow anyone to Use you as a scapegoat
Almost every workplace has people who never want to take responsibility for their actions. These are individuals who get involved in all sorts of dramas, gossip, and underhanded things.
They usually make it seem like the other employees are responsible for all of their screw-ups and can even bully or force you into accepting the blame.
Some people allow this kind of treatment to continue and become the scapegoat. It lets these individuals walk around like their actions do not have any consequences.
However, letting others take advantage of you will cause more problems in the long run, so it is best to stand up for yourself and set clear boundaries. Don’t ever allow yourself to become a scapegoat or let anyone pressure you into accepting responsibility for your actions.
Calmly challenge anyone who tries to make you feel guilty for things that are not your fault. When people try to push you around, respond by pushing back even harder! You have the right to stand up for yourself and be assertive.
7. Decline without justifying your decision
There are times when you may want to decline an offer or invitation without explaining or justifying why! Yes, decline without justifying can be tricky but not very difficult.
Simply say “NO” firmly followed by “I’m sorry but I cannot.” You do not have to be rude or aggressive in doing it this way. Just remain polite and professional.
You can be assertive and powerful with your language but also gentle inside, while speaking up for yourself.
And do not beat around the bush when declining a request from someone. If you owe them no explanation, simply say that you cannot do it or will not do it.
Avoid giving explanations that people may perceive as excuses, and often nobody cares about your reasons or justifications.
Even in circumstances where you may find it necessary to explain to someone like your boss, do not over-elaborate why you say no. Do not apologise profusely for declining a request or turning down an invitation.
Do it in a simple way: “no thank you.” It serves as both your answer and closure to the conversation.
Some people will be upset, and you may even feel guilty. That is perfectly normal. However, do not fall into emotional blackmail. Be prepared to say no, even if it means that you have to swallow your pride.
Read more:12 Examples of Resilience at Work
8. Turn off notifications from social media apps
Social media platforms provide a constant stream of information from around the world, which is beneficial because it keeps us updated with what is happening in our social circles.
While social media notifications can often be helpful, they are essentially designed to keep you alert all the time. They connect and reconnect you with an attention-seeking impulse, making it harder for you to concentrate on work.
The thing about most social media platforms is that if you do not check on them, they check on YOU. It is something many people do not even realize! But they are detrimental to your productivity.
Consider the following example; suppose you are on a tight deadline to finish writing a report for your boss. Then your friend sends you a message asking what you are up to, later on, that day.
The first instinct is to reply immediately, even though that will only be the beginning of what could become an extended conversation about nothing — something that will distract you from getting the report ready on time.
So, to avoid falling prey to social media distraction, always turn off all social media alerts every day while you work.
9. Don’t anger cloud your judgement
Never let anger rule your responses to people, especially when they are in an excited or agitated state. Anger clouds judgment because it drives your emotions into a heightened state. When you are emotional, it is hard to think clearly and rationally.
It is natural to get angry at work, but you should not let that anger dominate or carry over into something else. If you are getting angry, step away from the situation and come back to it later after you have calmed down.
Often people lose themselves in the heat of the moment and do things they later regret. The burden of regretting doing something is much greater than a sense of feeling angry.
So, make a conscious effort to handle volatile situations in a calm and collected way. Otherwise, allowing anger to cloud your judgment can put you in embarrassing situations.
Setting clear boundaries at work can seem daunting because you do not want to come off as a difficult person. However, if you are firm yet kind at the same time, people will respect and appreciate you for your actions.
Boundaries are a way of telling others who you are and how far they can go with you. Setting boundaries is not about controlling other people or trying to change them.
It’s about protecting yourself from undesirable circumstances—and in the long run, it will make you feel better!
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