Top Tips for Setting Boundaries at Work

Top Tips for Setting Boundaries at Work

Posted by Jan Lawrence

Boundaries and Resilience


Boundaries are the “force field” you create around yourself by the limits you set.  A boundary defines where you end and others begin.  Limits around time, limits around who you let into your life, limits around what activities that you let take up your attention and your time.  They are the imaginary lines that enable you to tell people how close they can come to you.  Good boundaries mean that you spend your time and energy wisely. You don’t waste anything on what’s not good for you – people, activities, food etc.  You are in charge. You’re choosing what you let inside your life.  As a result you become more resilient.  Our personal boundaries are our own caring protection field, they help us to decide what types of communication, behaviour and interaction are acceptable.

A lack of boundaries is like leaving your front door open, anyone, including unwelcome guests can get in whenever they want.  Having boundaries that are too rigid can have the result in a person becoming isolated and cut off from the world.

 Top Tips for Setting Boundaries at Work


Think about your use of language, for example, to say ‘No’ you could say – ‘I’d prefer not to ….. because …….’ or ‘I’d rather not …… ……………’

State your position positively. ‘I can do it, if I could get some help on the processing side’ ‘I can do that for you, although we’d need to discuss the timescales you’re suggesting.’

Know how you expect to be treated, and be clear about it to others. Many of us have been trained not to make demands or state our own wants when dealing with others. But consider this: How much easier would your day be if everyone you dealt with was completely upfront with how they preferred to be treated and where their boundaries are?

Let other people know how you prefer to be treated, what you expect from them and what your personal boundaries are. You don’t have to be rude about it; a simple, “I’m sorry, I reserve weekends for my family,” or, “If you don’t mind, I would prefer not to go out after work for a drink as I want to get back in time to spend some time with my children.” This is all that is required to get the point across fairly and politely.

Be respectful, thoughtful and responsible when setting boundaries. It’s irresponsible and unprofessional to stay quiet about potential professional boundary issues at work and then end up with too much workload that results in not doing your job to the best of your abilities. You are responsible for setting boundaries around your time and organisation. It is also not fair to others in any relationship to let a lack of boundaries create tension, resentment and other problems.

Respect other peoples boundaries, even if you don’t agree with them. If your boundaries happen to be incompatible, you must either find a way of working around those issues, or work out a compromise that will work for you both. This is essential for resilience. Don’t go straight to creating a barrier, this is resistance not resilience.

Be proactive when dealing with other people’s boundaries. If you’re unsure where another’s boundaries lie, take the initiative and ask. In a business situation, you can start by asking how the other person prefers to be addressed or how they prefer to receive communication.

Boundaries exist to protect life, not to limit pleasures.

Appropriate boundaries create integrity.

Healthy boundaries can be flexible when needed.  They are fluid, able to adjust to change and unexpected events.  Being inflexible with our own boundaries may not support us.