Establishing healthy and professional boundaries in the world of work is a critical component to long-term success for both companies and employees. Having boundaries in place sets a strong foundation for a productive, safe, and respectful work environment for all.
In addition to respecting boundaries that the organization sets such as job limitations, where to park, off-limit areas, chain of command, and any general policy – it is also necessary to be mindful of interpersonal boundaries set by those we work with.
Recognize The Boundaries of Your Job
Some of the most important boundaries you have as an employee are those which your job description outlines. What this means is that it is important for all team members to (within reason) stay in our professional lanes. For example, unless you were hired to manage people, you need to refrain from acting like someone’s manager by questioning their whereabouts or level of performance. This also means when working as a team to effectively share the workload and not try to control it all. A respectful work environment is one where we can all chip in and help others when appropriate or provide feedback as a way to support – but it also means that we need to be mindful of where those boundaries are and avoid crossing them.
Keep It Professional
One key to a successful and comfortable work environment for all is to speak and behave in a professional manner. The workplace is not an appropriate setting to ask intrusive & personal questions, tell insensitive or raunchy jokes, or engage in controversial conversations that are outside the scope of why you are there in the first place. When engaging in friendly conversation with fellow staff, always keep it professional. If the conversation steers into a direction that you feel crosses the line, politely acknowledge that perhaps this is not something that you wish to discuss in the workplace. Taking that approach allows you to clarify a boundary while also not putting the other person on the defensive.
Practice Good Time Management
Time in and of itself is a boundary. There is a set amount in a day and it is up to each person to make the most of it. Your work schedule is a finite amount of time that you are supposed to be dedicating to accomplishing your job duties. This means during those hours your work should be your number one focus. The first step in practicing good time management is to show up on time (every time) for your scheduled shift. While you are working limit distractions, focus on your work, and be respectful of other people’s time. Minutes matter, so work to be mindful of how you are spending yours and how you may be affecting others.
Review Your Employee Handbook
Your employee handbook is a tool for your long-term success at any company. Make sure you are taking the time to read through your employee handbook as soon as you receive it. Doing so will ensure that you are familiarizing yourself with any policies and boundaries your employer has set and expects you to follow. When reading through this employee guide, you should make special note of any rules being set and write down any questions that you may have so you can seek out clarity from your supervisor. Once you have read through the manual, be sure to put it somewhere that you will be able to access it later should you have any questions. Keep in mind that company policies will evolve over time and the company may update them and notify staff – be sure to read and save any updates you receive.
Be Prepared to Communicate
Unspoken or unclear boundaries do no one any favors. We are not suggesting that you have a list of personal boundaries that you cover with all of your co-workers, but you need to know what your boundaries are and be able to openly and honestly communicate them as needed. For example, let’s say you do not want to get caught up in workplace gossip or politics. If you find yourself in a conversation where gossip comes up, politely tell them you do not want to participate in that kind of discussion and try to steer the conversation in a more appropriate direction. If your attempts to redirect are unsuccessful, politely remove yourself from the discussion.
Setting boundaries and being prepared to address violations does not have to be confrontational. A best practice once you identify your boundaries is to ensure you follow them consistently. If you violate your own boundary by gossiping about another co-worker it will create confusion and conflict. Be confident, be respectful, and be consistent.