5 Ways of Setting Boundaries at Work

Sometimes we may mismanage our own time; we try to do many things at once in order to feel that we are accomplishing more tasks. But do we really finish the tasks to at least a satisfactory level? Or is it just an illusion that multitasking gives? You may be giving yourself undue stress by not managing your time during and outside of work properly.

Whether it’s because you aspire to achieve many things or your boss/colleagues overloaded you with tasks, there are sure to be times when you have far too much on your plate. Hence, it’s crucial to define your boundaries. If you want to stay in the job for a long time, here are some tips for setting boundaries at your workplace.

1. Know your worth

Knowing your worth or values helps you determine where and how you should set the boundaries. For example, you may have personal commitments that you have to prioritize, such as picking up your child from daycare, or preparing food for your aged parents. In order to have enough time for those commitments, you need to have rigid boundaries around working overtime or being available round the clock.

2. Be clear with your boundaries

Communicate your limits clearly. If you don’t want your boss or colleagues to contact you after working hours, tell him clearly and politely that you’ll only be available for work-related discussions during working hours. In addition, it’s almost vital to clarify what constitutes an “emergency“ or “urgent” especially among your colleagues and clients. Don’t assume that people will judge you because of your strict boundaries, it’s only right to lay out your limits very clearly to avoid any misunderstandings at the workplace.

3. Voice out any violations immediately

It’s common for people to keep quiet for weeks or even months before bringing up a violation of their boundaries. They would ruminate about the situation and get upset instead of confronting the person or people who violated their boundaries. It’s unhealthy to do so and quite unfair to others since things can transpire during that period of time. Be firm and reinforce your boundary right there and then is more effective than bringing it up after weeks or months later.

4. Give tangible explanations

When you’re defining boundaries at a workplace, avoid talking from your own personal perspective. Keep things professional and focus on giving objective and valid explanations. For example, if your boss is pressuring to meet an impossible deadline, explain to him or her politely why the deadline is too tight with logical reasons instead of saying things like “I’m too tired” or “I don’t have time for this”.

You will seem whiny and only care about yourself. Try to phrase your explanation logically and tell your boss exactly why you think the tight deadline is not going to work. For example, “We don’t have enough manpower to churn out so much work in such a short time” or “we can’t neglect other clients/projects and allocate all resources on this project”.

5. Be ready for violations

It’s important to prepare yourself from possible violation of your boundaries and think about how you should react. For example, if you receive a text message from your client during the weekend, what’s your plan of action? Will you reply immediately or wait till Monday morning? These are things that you should think about so that you know what to do when you’re in such situation.

Setting boundaries take time and experience. When you boundaries are crossed, be patient and learn how to structure your defense professionally. You might get constructive feedback from time to time and it’s important to be open-minded and improve on your boundary setting.

Find these tips useful? We have more career advice, workplace tips, and job search tips on our blog. Don’t forget to check them out!

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