If You Don’t Have Boundaries at Work…

A frequently seen scenario: 

Tell me if this is familiar:

You’re done for the day and looking forward to your evening when you get a work email from a college that has some questions they want to be answered ASAP. The questions aren’t hard, but they do require you to look a few things up so you’re not sure how long it will take.

You don’t NEED to do this work now or want to, but you feel like you should.

You rationalize that it’s easier to do it now because now you’re stressed about it so if you don’t respond you’re just going to be stressed about it all night.

You scroll on Instagram for a while pretending you didn’t see the email because it feels like a mini revenge but eventually pull out your laptop and do it.

Later on, you start to feel bad about choosing work over yourself again. You tell yourself that you need to stand up for yourself and set boundaries. You tell yourself you’re going to stop caring so much about what people think and prioritize your needs. You want to get some of the empowerment feeling that half of the posts on LinkedIn are talking about,

And once again you promise yourself that you will do that…starting tomorrow.

Is anything here hitting a chord?

If so, I’m going to tell you 5 things that you need to know if you really want to stop doing this and create some new habits:

Five Hard Truths About Setting Boundaries at Work

1. Vague boundaries don’t work.

Setting boundaries is just the act of deciding ahead of time what you will do if something happens—for example, deciding that you’re not going to respond to work requests after 7 pm. When setting boundaries be as specific as necessary to include foreseeable exceptions, for example, you may specify which colleagues, or what type of requests you will reply to. You want the boundary to be clear so that you don’t need to try and interpret it.

2. Your boundaries are YOUR responsibility.

If you’re setting boundaries because you want other people to change you’re doing it wrong. Your boundaries are your responsibility and no one else’s, and the annoying truth is that you cannot control other people. You may tell your colleagues that you are not available in the evenings and they might email you anyway. It’s your boundary so it’s your job to uphold it and to manage your mind and any feelings that come up.*Side note on confidence: Confidence comes from doing uncomfortable things and achieving results, so if you’re telling yourself that you need to be more confident you’re putting the cart before the horse. The more you follow through for yourself, the more your confidence will grow.

3. Powerful boundaries come from love not control.

Never set boundaries from fear,  anger, or self-righteousness, set them because you love your reasons. Get really clear on why you are making these decisions. For example, how will the quality of your work and your career benefit if you stop being reactive to email requests in the evenings?  The more you believe in and love your reasons, the easier it will be to uphold your boundaries.

4. You’re pleasing yourself with people pleasing.

If you want to stop people pleasing, you need to recognize how you’re pleasing yourself with this behaviour as well. What do you get out of it? Acknowledge the relief that comes from not risking someone else’s displeasure, even if at your own expense. What feeling do you get to avoid when you prioritize someone else’s needs over your own? Why is it easier? Your reasons for setting the boundary need to eclipse what you’re getting out of your current patterns.

5. Upholding your boundaries at work and choosing yourself over people pleasing doesn’t feel “empowering” in the moment.

Following through on your own boundaries means being willing to experience uncomfortable feelings. When you set a boundary and come up against it, upholding it at first it might feel stressful, scary, or even reckless. It will feel like this time it’s just easier to go back to how you’ve done things in the past. This is why you decide ahead of time, you don’t want your decisions to be made from high emotion. Setting boundaries at work isn’t some empowerment hack. For example, setting a new boundary about not replying to work emails doesn’t mean that you will no longer feel stressed about not replying or stop worrying about what your colleague thinks, but you need to be able to experience those feelings without breaking your own boundary just to escape them. The more you practice managing your mind and processing feelings, the easier this will become. It doesn’t change overnight, and you CAN get to a place where you no longer feel stressed or worry about what other people will think when something comes up against the boundary.

You may be telling yourself that this is temporary, maybe you’re just putting up with it until you get a new job or something, but you know the saying “everywhere I go, there I am”? Yeah, these habits will follow you until you learn a new way of doing things.

The Real Freedom of Setting Boundaries at Work

The scenario above came from a Kickstartology coaching session. We help you dig into the details in your life today to help you figure out exactly what’s going on and what steps you need to take in order to do things differently and feel comfortable doing them. We will help you learn from what’s not working, support you, hold you accountable, and be there to cheer for all of those tiny steps you’re taking as you get out of your own way.

The sooner you start practicing the boundary stuff, the sooner you get good at it and the easier it gets.

Imagine the same scenario as above, except all that happens is that you reply to the email saying you will get to it tomorrow and then you don’t think about it again until then. 

That’s real freedom.

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