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5 Ways You Can Set Work Boundaries...Starting Right Now

Updated: May 19, 2021

It's not easy to stand up to your boss, but once you do, ooooh is it worth it! Here are 5 ways you can create healthy boundaries at work and still have stellar work relationships.

Standing up for yourself is no easy feat. Standing up to your boss? That's expert mode.

Setting boundaries at work can be a tricky path to navigate but once you reach the end and have happy, healthy work relationships and a respectful work environment, it'll be worth all that time you spent setting up those boundaries.

1) Communicate

Let your boss know how you're feeling and where your stress levels are at before you reach an explosive meltdown at work. We've all been there! You don't want to let on that you're swamped at work and give off the impression you can't do your job. Sooo...You say yes to too many projects, get in way over your head, and then on a seemingly harmless Tuesday afternoon you finally break and have a meltdown in the office that leaves you a blubbering mess at your boss' desk. It's cool, we've all probably been there. If we hadn't, there wouldn't be so many self-help articles online about how to deal with this situation. Reaching your breaking point and dissolving in tears at your boss' feet will probably lessen your workload, this is true. But it will also leave you feeling embarrassed and less likely to speak up in the future for fear of another burnt out breakdown. All of these helpful tips on setting boundaries in the workplace stem from one main component; Communication.

"...boundaries in the workplace stem from one main component; Communication."

2) Get clear on your schedule.

Be up front about the amount of time you can put into the job before you get hired. If the job you're applying for has a full-time workload and you only have part time availability, let your future boss know this up front. It could be a possibility that the workload can be split among a few employees, leaving you with the hours and workload you want and can handle. Vice versa, if the position doesn't offer you the hours you are wanting or needing, be clear that you can only do this if it's going to lead to more hours in the near future.

Keyword: 'Near.' Too many times the phrase, “Room for growth” is thrown around in the workplace and we all know, that doesn't always happen right away. It can take months or years to advance to a position that actually works for you. So, make sure if the ideal job isn't ready for you yet, it will be soon.

If your part time job that you've had for months or years is slowly inching towards a full time gig and it's just becoming too much, then let your boss know, preferably before that meltdown, that the workload you currently have isn't working for you. Gently remind them of the job description you had when you were originally hired and let them know it's uber important you get back to that schedule pronto! My mom would always remind me of something my grandfather would say about employment. “If you don't like your job, quit!”

Sometimes, no matter how much you play nice and try to negotiate, the answer will always be, “No!” That's your que to start looking for other options.

3) Stand your ground.

Finding your voice and using it to stand up for yourself is a challenge. But it's also imperative to your boss and co-workers respecting you and your boundaries. If you're wishy-washy on your boundaries and are willing to bend on certain things, similar to children, if you give them an inch, they will take a mile. Establish what you are able to do for your boss, co-workers and yourself and don't back track. If you agree to work past your regular shift often, or agree to take on too many projects, it will become expected that you consistently take on the extra work, without any extra pay or benefits. Don't do that to yourself! Just say, “No!”

4) Think before you speak.

It's prided in the workplace to be agreeable and helpful and say yes to helping out, but it's not worth it if it leaves you stressed out and headed for a meltdown. It's okay to have some pre-generated responses to when someone asks you to take on extra responsibilities. These are some of my favorites:

“I would like to complete the projects I already have before I take on more.”

“I understand you are needing extra help with this project, unfortunately, I can't add any more to my plate right now. Thank you for understanding!”

“I'll need to check my schedule and get back to you!”

***Never apologize for standing up for yourself!***

It's tempting to add the phrases, “I'm sorry.” Or, “My apologies.” Don't do it!!!

This only sets the tone that you are remorseful for standing up for yourself and setting boundaries. Don't be sorry about that! Switch out your apologetic remarks for these instead:

“I appreciate you being understanding about this in advance.”

“I'm hopeful someone else can take this extra work on.”

“I can check in with you again when I've completed my workload and see if you still need additional help.”

5) Take time off.

If you're familiar with TikTok, and who isn't at this point, there was a trend going around that prompted duet videos with, “Tell me you work in America without telling me you work in America...” Most of the video duets rang to the tone of, “I'm allowed to take vacation days in other countries??? And sick days when I'm sick? We don't just go to work sick?!?”

Most other developed countries flaunt elaborate benefit packages that include an adequate amount of paid time off! At least 2 weeks a year! There's even science to back this up that your brain takes a certain amount of time to switch from 'Work Mode' to 'Vacation Mode' and American workplace vacations are typically so short that your brain barely gets to slide into vacation mode before you have to return to work. What's the point of that?

Advocate for yourself in the workplace and make an effort to barter for more vacation time when you're hired. Let them know that it's important that you get to take a proper vacation each year, and have that time to rest and recharge so you can perform even better at your job when you return!

***There's also a ton of research online backing the theory that taking more time off and more breaks at work will lead to better work performance. What employer is going to turn down the possibility of more work productivity and better work performance?***

Make it happen for yourself!

To quote the wise old Lorax, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's just not

So maybe he's talking about trees there but if every employee started standing up for themselves at work and making these changes happen, it would eventually become the norm and maybe TikTok trends like that would finally fall by the wayside.


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