For many people, work is where they spend the majority of their days. The experience you have at work not only affects you while you’re there, but also bleeds into other areas of your life. For that reason and many others, you want to ensure you’re able to create a positive environment at work that will contribute to your overall well-being.
Having established boundaries is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure your work life is healthy. Although not always easy, with clear communication, practice and preparation, it can be done.
Here are some tips on how to promote healthy boundaries in the workplace:
1. Stay true to your values
Knowing your own personal values will be hugely beneficial in helping you navigate workplace dynamics. In understanding what matters to you, and how you want to treat and be treated by those around you, it will be easier to establish boundaries to help you meet these needs.
Whether this means saying no to additional projects because you need to have time for your family, or changing the way you talk to a colleague because you realize it doesn’t reflect the persona you really want to be, knowing your values will help you make better decisions.
2. Have a plan of action for when violations do occur
Unfortunately, it is likely that at one point or another, your boundaries will be crossed. It is helpful to prepare for this in advance by visualizing your boundaries getting crossed and then imagining how you’re going to handle those situations.
For instance, you might need to contact an employment law firm like Levitt LLP for legal guidance. This way, when and if the situation does arrive, you won’t be overwhelmed by emotion and will be able to articulate your needs calmly and clearly.
3. Focus on communication
Having set boundaries is only effective if they are also acknowledged and respected by the people around you. If something is bothering you at work, you need to find a way to share this information with your colleagues in a respectful yet firm way. It is absolutely reasonable to be direct while expressing your needs, but you should avoid being aggressive or argumentative, which will simply put those around you on the defensive.
4. Deal with a boundary violation immediately
This is one of the biggest obstacles to establishing a healthy workplace. Often, people get upset, ruminate about the situation for days or weeks and then bring it up a month later. The problem with this is approach is that by the time you get around to discussing it, you’re likely to be even more worked up than when it happened. Meanwhile, everyone else is expected to have forgotten about it entirely.
It is crucial to remember that a lot can happen during that time and that the person may not understand where you’re coming from weeks later. Instead, take action right away and reinforce your boundary in the moment or very close to it. For instance, if a co-worker wants to gossip about another co-worker in a way that makes you uncomfortable, state that in the moment. It is much more effective.
5. Establish a structure
To feel comfortable expressing their boundaries and making sure they are aware of those of others, it is important to facilitate a way for people to share their positions. This can effectively be done by setting up a meeting with an agenda. In this framework, everyone gets a chance to express themselves and you can include a start and end time to ensure things stay on track. Have topics ready in advance, so everyone knows where the discussion is headed.
6. Try to eliminate the grey area
Although situations are rarely black and white, it is essential to be firm when establishing boundaries at work. For this reason, it is not always helpful to use a lot of personal perspectives and get too many emotions involved. Rather than feeling the need to make a personal appeal, frame your explanation in a detached, concrete way. If something going on at work affects your ability to do your job, frame it from that perspective. Make it relevant to your boss and your colleagues from a professional point of view, not just a personal one.
7. Understand that everyone has different expectations
Not everyone will understand the reasoning behind your personal boundaries, and you might not understand the reason behind theirs. That is ok. It is about having a level of professionalism and maturity to respect them nonetheless. If someone makes a sincere appeal to discuss something with you, engage them. It is always favourable to be open to negotiating a more reasonable and mutually beneficial option. That being said, you should never feel you need to justify why something makes you uncomfortable.