Holes In Your Fences?

I’ve noticed that there seems to be a large amount of confusion around boundaries in the workplace. I’m here to tell you, that there simply does not have to be. 

Many have been conditioned to think that boundaries in a career are a negative thing or even a liability. Some people operate under the assumption that telling your supervisors, co-workers, or clients “no” will alienate you from teams and opportunities. 

While the most readily available mental picture for boundaries is a fence, that fence doesn’t need to be seen as a means for keeping something out. How about protecting what’s inside? 

Let’s shift our perspective. 

Boundaries protect. Peace, productivity, privacy . . . these are all things we value and understand why anyone would want to protect them. So, framing your boundaries in that way when communicating can lessen any hesitancy due to fear of being perceived negatively. 

This can be a helpful starting point for creating boundaries AND for remembering why they are important. For example, communicate that your cut-off time for responding to after-hours messages is so that you can get enough rest to stay sharp the next day. 

Let clients know that reaching out to the junior-level executive (instead of you) while you’re on vacation is a helpful part of the newcomer’s training. This type of positioning invites the person you’re establishing boundaries within so that they feel like they’re part of the process – not being pushed out by a fence.

I saw a post on social media recently where someone shared that they put their upcoming out-of-office dates in the email signature for a few weeks before they leave. That way, no one is surprised by seeing their auto-responder while they’re gone. 

It’s not your responsibility to manage the emotions of another adult, but high communication certainly helps to avoid issues.

Be sure to establish boundaries from the beginning of relationships so that they’re respected and come to be expected from you. If you haven’t been leading through good boundary setting, acknowledge that first before you do establish new boundaries.

Remember that clear communication is the secret sauce from beginning to end. Boundaries take practice. So use some of these tips to see what works best for you while strengthening your boundary-setting muscles.


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