Healthy Boundaries in the Workplace

No one knows how important it is to have healthy boundaries more than those who have struggled to create them. Some people just seem more naturally skilled at saying no than others. Of course, saying no is just part of it. Being able to establish healthy boundaries comes from being very clear with yourself on your values and needs.

If you’re having a hard time saying no or creating healthy boundaries, consider the below before committing yourself to something you shouldn’t.

1. Prioritize your values.

Often when we say yes to things we know we shouldn’t, it’s because we want to be seen as someone who is flexible and helpful. We value those attributes and want to stay in alignment. Those are certainly good things to be unless of course, they come at the expense of our own priorities. If your own work is going to suffer, what would that look like? If you value the quality of your work and being known as someone who consistently turns out high-quality projects, that’s certainly not something you’d want to jeopardize. So what do you value more, being seen as flexible and always willing to help, or as someone who always produces quality work? If you’re really having a hard time, start slowly. Start saying yes to only doing part of a project, but not being responsible for all of it.

2. Don’t let guilt get the better of you.

Guilt makes us do a lot of things. Things we know we don’t want to do and shouldn’t do. Of course, we have various obligations. I’m not suggesting that you say no to everything you don’t feel like doing. But if guilt is the driving motivator behind your reasoning to say yes, it’s not a good sign. Consider this: would you be able to do your best work if you were motivated by guilt? Additionally, your resentment is sure to grow as a result which could end up negatively impacting your work relationships as well as your overall performance. When you need to say no, offer a reason that makes business sense. For example, if you take this on, you may not be able to deliver on other obligations. Or explain that you’re concerned about not being able to deliver your best work on this and that the achievable goal for the project would be best served if someone else took it on.

3. Communicate your boundaries

Because boundaries are personal, you can’t expect people to know what your boundaries are. It’s important to communicate what does and doesn’t work for you. For example, if your boss likes to debrief extensively over text on the weekends, you may need to set some expectations if you feel that your work/life balance is in jeopardy.

4. Speak up quickly when a boundary has been crossed.

When your boundaries have been crossed, it’s critical to address it right away. If you don’t, your boundaries are likely to keep getting crossed until you say something. Unfortunately, if you wait too long to discuss the issue, it won’t have as much impact.

5. Find a plan that works for those you work with.

You may be used to operating a certain way, but you have to realize that your boundaries are not the only ones that need to be considered. For positive change to take place, start a discussion that takes everyone’s needs into consideration. Then figure out the best way to incorporate them into your new operating process. While your needs are important, remember that boundaries are not meant to create walls between you and others but rather work for both parties.

Creating healthy boundaries isn’t just critical to workplace satisfaction but will help in personal relationships as well. While boundaries are seen as a way of protecting ourselves, what they really do is help us create structure. It gives us a framework within which to operate that we all feel comfortable and efficient.