How to Set Boundaries at Work

set boundaries workplace boundaries Jun 08, 2022

Work-life balance may be a go-to cliché when discussing employee wellness, but it's not just a buzzword: It's crucial to ensuring that we don't feel overworked, under-appreciated and generally unhappy in our jobs. Yet the reality is that most of us are juggling several responsibilities at once — and in the process, we're allowing work to gradually encroach on areas of our lives where it doesn't belong.

Setting boundaries at work can be extremely difficult, but it is a great way to stay focused, get more done, and feel better about your job.  For some, this may mean setting boundaries with a manager who doesn't respect boundaries. For others, your colleagues may cross boundaries with you, and it can be hard to know how to deal with it. 

The truth is that there's no one-size-fits-all approach for setting boundaries at work. There are many different ways of handling this situation, depending on what works best for you and your boss. However, here are some tips that can help you establish boundaries without feeling guilty about taking time for yourself:

  1. Pay attention to your emotions.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the demands of your job? Are you constantly being asked for favors that no one else is doing? Are there certain tasks that make you feel anxious or stressed? Is it because it's an unreasonable request? Is it because they don't treat you with respect? Or is it because they've asked you to do something that affects your health or well-being (for example, asking you to work late on a night when you have a family event)?

When we're feeling upset or stressed, it's easy to feel like we are being unreasonable. But if you pay attention to what you are feeling at the moment, you can often pinpoint exactly where the boundaries lie. 

When you feel like you're about to burst into tears over something that happened at work, it's time to set a boundary. 

  1. Set boundaries but be flexible.

It's important to set boundaries, but it's also important they aren't too inflexible. There are going to be times when it's necessary for you to go above and beyond what is expected of you—but there are also going to be times when you need space from work-related tasks in order to recharge and focus on yourself first. When setting boundaries (or even just communicating them), remember that sometimes "no" means "maybe later," as long as you have some flexibility built into your agreement with someone else, for example,  about when they'll get back in touch with you again!

Sometimes people will want things from us that we're not comfortable giving them. It's important for us not only to set boundaries but also acknowledge that other people might have different needs than we do, which means sometimes we need flexibility in order to meet their needs without compromising our own limits too much (or at all). 

  1. Communicate your boundaries clearly.

Letting people know what works for you (and what doesn't) is key when setting boundaries at work. It's important to communicate your boundaries, but be sure not to go overboard when communicating them — you don't want to make others feel as though they have no choice but to accede to your wishes!

It's important to be clear about what kinds of issues bother or stress out different members of your team so that everyone knows how best to support each other without stepping on toes. For example, start by letting your manager know how much time off you need and when that time should take place, so they can plan their workload accordingly. If possible, set up an annual review meeting where both parties can discuss how well each party is meeting their obligations and goals together.

  1. Know and manage your limits.

What are the things that are going to make you feel uncomfortable? Is it being asked to do more work than you can handle? Is it working with certain people who are difficult? If you know what makes you uncomfortable, then you can set up boundaries around those things.

Knowing and managing your limits means knowing what's reasonable to ask of yourself in the workplace and what isn't—and then making sure you live up to that standard. It also means knowing when it's time for a break or a change of scenery, and acting accordingly. Don't feel guilty about taking time for yourself; if anything, think of it as an investment in your career!

  1. Change your mindset about boundaries.

Think of them as a way of protecting yourself from others and their expectations, not as walls between you and your coworkers or manager. You're setting up these boundaries in order to protect yourself from getting overwhelmed by tasks or emotional stressors from others around you, so don't make them sound like something that blocks off communication with others—it's more like a protective shield than anything else.

Above all, remember that taking care of yourself is not only OK—it's necessary!


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