7 Ways To Set Healthy Boundaries With Your Co-Workers!

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Siffat Kaur Arora

03 January 2024

6 Mins

You may be a workaholic at heart, but that doesn’t really mean that you’d let your guard down. Many times I see my dad taking ‘work’ calls late at night, and sometimes even on a Sunday, which in fact, is the only holiday he gets in the entire week! I then wonder what the definition of office hours is for him. Another friend of mine rants about her manager being inconsiderate of personal life at all times, as more often than not, she is willing to keep track of everything my friend might do out of her office hours.

While you may be good friends with a couple of colleagues in your workspace, others still remain people who you only work with. In that very space, it is of utmost importance to make things clear as to how much of yourself you are willing to give in that relationship. A boundary can be defined as a limit defining you in a relationship to someone or to something.

Blurred lines with management expectations, job responsibilities, communication, or other areas of work can be stressful and frustrating. Setting clear boundaries, on the other hand, helps to maintain good productivity and social dynamics in the workplace. When professional boundaries and priorities have been clearly defined, everyone is able to function more effectively. Without certain boundaries in place, there are no firm guidelines for behaviour.

“Learning to set and keep clear boundaries with your boss and colleagues is essential if you want to remain happy and productive at work,” says best-selling author and productivity coach Valorie Burton.

Types Of Boundaries to set With Co-Workers

coworkers fighting

At some point or the other, we all have fallen into the trap where we push ourselves a little harder to please our co-workers with things like, “Do you check work emails outside of office hours?”, or “Will you pick up work outside of your job description at a moment’s notice?” Well, pleasing people around us may be an unhealthy way of making them realize our potential and worth. Setting boundaries from the start allows you to navigate your workplace, avoid potential toxic environments, and create a clear path for you to do your best work without being taken advantage of or burning out.

There are various types of boundaries one shall try maintaining in order to protect one’s mental health.

1. Job Responsibilities

These include boundaries a manager needs to set for their employees and boundaries a person needs to set for themselves. Manager-set boundaries involve clearly defining the employee’s role and responsibilities, which establishes accountability and leaves little room for blame or excuses. In this case, employees should be able to answer the following questions:

a. Who do you report to? b. Who provides you with feedback? c. Who decides what you should be working on? d. Who assigns you work?

Once manager-set boundaries are in place, employees can establish and maintain the boundaries more effectively.

2. Interpersonal Boundaries

These are the boundaries between co-workers as well as between employees and managers. Factors include:

a. The tone of voice used in the workplace b. People’s attitudes toward one another c. The ability to focus on work even with people you have a personal conflict with

Interpersonal boundaries are integral for co-workers to be able to work together productively. Weak interpersonal boundaries can lead to exploitation.

3. Personal Boundaries

These are boundaries that help you to keep a healthy work-life balance. They can include:

a. Limiting access to your work email or voicemail while at home, or maybe setting a specific time for the same. b. Taking some time off and leaving work during that period c. Being affirmative to say no to things that don’t fall under your ‘job’

How To Establish These Boundaries With Co-Workers?

woman smiling with coworkers

Setting boundaries at work is a step-by-step process. It’s easiest to set boundaries when you first start a job; that’s when the basics are up in the air in terms of start and end times for the workday, overtime circumstances, working from home, etc. But, always know that it’s never too late to ask for what you want.

1. Make Time For What Makes You Happy

Knowing what is important to you is the first step to knowing how and where to set boundaries. Start by asking yourself what boundaries you need to protect your own happiness at work. Ask yourself: “What does that give me?”

If a day out with your family is what you’re definitely looking for, make sure you are able to get that. You want to make time for the things that are important to you; therefore, you need to have strict boundaries around working overtime or being available at all hours. This especially applies to leaving work at work. Make rules for yourself: for example, you can check email before dinner but then have to put away your devices so you can spend the rest of the evening being completely offline.

2. Communication Will Keep Away Misunderstandings

Be open, honest, and clear with coworkers and managers about your value system at work, that ultimately forms the basis of your boundaries. Don’t, however, try to set all your boundaries at once. Take it one conversation at a time. Practice identifying, asking for, and keeping a boundary. Keep track of what works, change what doesn’t, and keep moving forward.

3. Keep Your Relationships Professional

It is extremely natural to have some of your colleagues as friends, but it’s obvious that not everybody can be your friend. Therefore, it is extremely important to stay professional in your work relationships, where you limit your conversations and expression of feelings and ultimately try to separate your friends from your co-workers.

4. Learn To Say NO!

Saying no is a lot easier said than done, especially in a professional atmosphere! One important part of establishing boundaries is in setting expectations about the work you will do, that you’re hired to do, the work you’re willing to pick up, and the work that is outside of your responsibilities. When work is entirely outside of your scope of responsibility, you might have the opportunity to say no or delegate the work to someone who is more suited to the work.

5. Understand Your Worth

Understanding our worth and value means that we have an awareness and appreciation of our achievements and what we can offer. This would lead us to recognise and identify how people may perceive us and also understand us. Our awareness of ourselves will also form a foundation of what we think we can do and are capable of. Also, letting others know about the same will help them assess our abilities desirably.

6. Take Time To Respond

A technique that may naturally help you from saying ‘yes’ quite often is the art of pausing. This technique will give you a chance to check in with yourself to determine whether you have a conflict. If needed, buy yourself time and say, “That might work”, “Let me just check my schedule and get back to you”, and “This sounds good; let me think about it and revert you”. This will help you assess the offer/situation a little more and go beyond what is being shown to you on the surface.

7. You May Experience Backlash!

Once you start establishing healthy boundaries, you can expect others to react negatively. This is a sign that the boundary is necessary and that it's working effectively.

Also, being prepared for your boundaries being breached is helpful to imagine how you'll address those situations so that you can prepare in advance. That way, when a moment like that arises, you'll be able to handle it rationally versus emotionally.

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Therefore, even though it may seem like a long process of being able to establish and maintain these boundaries, it is worth every minute invested. Understanding that you’re a lot more than you work will help you prioritize your well being at all times.

If you’re someone who thinks you have mastered this process or someone who needs to start this process, then download Now&Me and share your precious tips with the ones in need.

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