Why Setting Boundaries at Work Is Important
It’s amazing how often the topic of boundaries comes up in the work I do with my clients – particularly the consequences of not setting boundaries. I’ve had many conversations over the years on why setting boundaries at work is important, not only for you, but also your co-workers.
Here’s the thing about boundaries. Too often we don’t know what our boundaries are until they’ve been crossed. Why? Because we haven’t spent time identifying our personal boundaries and then setting them with others.
The result is hurt feelings, unnecessary frustration and damaged relationships.
Why do we avoid setting boundaries? Is it because we’re uncomfortable with the conversation or do we think we don’t have the right to set boundaries at work?
As someone who spent years avoiding setting boundaries, I will tell you this is not a road you want to go down.
Once I learned the hard way the importance of setting boundaries my load got a lot lighter. I was able to address issues before they festered, have clear communications with my coworkers and operate on terms that work for me, not others.
So, what does setting boundaries at work look like? It’s starts with getting clear on what works for you.
To be able to identify your boundaries you must first understand your working style. Do you prefer silence to concentrate or need background noise? Are you most productive in the mornings or afternoons? Do you need time to reflect and form your opinions or would you rather verbally brainstorm?
Really take the time to dig deep and understand what you need to be productive. Now think of your current work environment. Does it support your needs? Or do you need to make adjustments?
If you’re someone who has never set boundaries, it might be overwhelming to start stating your needs and pushing back. Instead, think of the small boundaries statements you can make.
If you need quiet to concentrate, look at closing your door or wearing noise cancelling headphones when working on a project. If anyone asks why you’re doing this, simply explain it’s what you need to concentrate.
Another trick is to block time in your calendar to work on projects when you’re most productive. Don’t let others control your calendar – block out the time you need.
For me, I like to spend the morning working on client projects while my kids are at school. This way I’m able to write, free of distractions. In the afternoons I work on bookkeeping, answering client emails and updating social media channels. These are all activities that don’t get sidetracked if I’m interrupted.
If you don’t state your boundaries no one will know you have any.
This was a real aha moment for one of my coaching clients. She talked about her frustration of people barging in her office, taking her off her focus without asking if she had time to talk. This was particularly annoying when she was on a deadline.
When I asked if she ever told people she was on a deadline and asked if their matter was urgent or if they could come back at another time, her answer was no. She was afraid of being perceived as rude. Instead, she simmered inside while the person ate up her valuable time.
Our solution was to put a notice on her door indicating she was working on a project and to call her if it was urgent. It was amazing how many people read the sign, shrugged their shoulders and walked away. She never did get a phone call.
From there she gained the confidence to state her boundaries verbally. Being a morning person, she requested non-urgent meetings be held in the afternoon so she could spend her mornings focused on her projects.
Once again, she did not get pushback. Rather, people just accepted the time that was suggested for the meeting.
It’s amazing how setting small boundaries can make big changes. Looking at my client, she commented on how her persona changed when she came to meetings. By suggesting the time that worked for her, she came prepared and focused instead of frustrated it was taking away from her productive time.
We teach people how to treat us.
If we take a passive role in our time scheduling and priority setting then others will have no problem taking the lead. But when we are clear about our boundaries it helps those around us have a better understanding of our needs.
Over the next week I encourage you to look at your own personal boundaries at work. What are your needs to be productive? Have you been clear in setting boundaries? If not, how will you set boundaries with other?
I expect you’ll find your frustration decreases while your productivity increases. And hopefully it will also improve your relationships with coworkers as you will be prioritizing your needs instead of expecting others to do it for you (which never happens).