How to Set Boundaries in the Workplace

Most people who work a typical job spend about a quarter of their time at work. Especially considering we spend more than a quarter of our time sleeping, this is pretty significant. It means that our workplace environment needs to be healthy. As such, we need to learn how to set boundaries with those individuals with whom we must spend so much time.

Workplace boundaries can include a lot of things. It can include how you work. For instance, how often you should be expected to check your email and if you are expected to work or communicate with work during your off-hours. It can also include the way you expect to be communicated with your colleagues and how you navigate your relationships with one another.

Here are the best ways on how to set boundaries in the workplace:

1. Communication is key

How you communicate your boundaries is crucial. You have to learn to share your boundaries with others in a calm and precise manner. Don’t be too harsh – you are trying to teach people about what is an acceptable way to treat you, not scold them for doing it wrong. Remember that people come from different backgrounds, and everybody has different boundaries.

2. Be consistent

If you let something slide sometimes but not others, it is confusing for your colleagues what you find acceptable, and it could cause the further crossing of your boundaries. Be consistent in what you accept, and don’t be afraid to let people know when they have crossed your boundaries.

It can seem like favouritism or prejudice if you point out to some people when they have crossed boundaries but not others. Maybe it is unconscious or random, but if talk starts that you are picking and choosing who you scold and who you let slide, people will try to figure out what your game is.

3. Don’t delay

If someone crosses one of your personal boundaries, you need to let them know immediately. In the moment, it can sometimes be difficult to point out what someone has done to cross a boundary, either because you don’t want to hurt their feelings or embarrass them.

If you leave it too long, you may forget about it, the discomfort they have caused you may fade. You may not be able to get your message across that what they did or said was not acceptable. At the same time, don’t wait too long to take action. Consult a Toronto employment lawyer right away if you feel that workplace harassment has occurred.

4. Ditch the abstract

If you beat around the bush, or keep your explanations too abstract, your colleagues may not understand exactly what you’re trying to say. By laying out your boundaries clearly and concisely, instead of being abstract and vague, your colleagues will quickly understand the boundaries you are setting in place.

5. Know that they will be crossed

You cannot fly off the handle if workplace boundaries are crossed. Sometimes it will happen. If you are prepared for the fact that it will happen, and are able to manage it in a respectful and productive manner, it will improve the entire situation from all angles.

6. Learn to respect others

If you want people to respect your boundaries, you need to know how to respect other people’s boundaries as well. Your respect for other people’s boundaries can help to foster a respectful and safe environment in the workplace. Ask questions about what people deem acceptable, and share with them where your boundaries lie. Mutual respect is the key to success.

7. Meditate on your personal values

Part of setting boundaries is having a deep understanding of what your boundaries even are. Take some time to figure out where your boundaries lie, and what is and is not acceptable to you.

8. Be patient

It can take a lot of time and energy to put into place workplace boundaries. Your patience is crucial in your success with implementing them. It will take some practice for you to perfect the art of setting and maintaining your boundaries. Don’t become discouraged if you cannot effectively communicate them at first or have a hard time defining where they even are. Continue to work on it, and it will come with time.

9. Expect negativity

Especially if you have been working in the same place with the same people for an extended period of time, and are just starting to put workplace boundaries into place, you can expect some pushback from your colleagues. They may not understand why this change has come about, and may take it personally.

As a result, your patience and understanding here is critical, and your communication skills will come in handy. Don’t fall into the trap of getting defensive back at these people, and don’t back down on the boundaries you have made. They are valid.