Your 3-step guide to setting better boundaries at work | Nedra Glover Tawwab
Know you should establish clear limits at work but not sure how to do it? Here are a few strategies from relationship therapist and author Nedra Glover Tawwab that can help you feel more empowered and less overwhelmed, both on and off the job.
English 00:00 I'm a therapist whose job it is to help people create healthier relationships. And let me tell you, it can be really hard to tell someone what you need. It takes a lot of courage to stand up and say, "This is the way I want to be treated." Most of us aren't so great at vocalizing to the people in our lives what makes us feel respected and valued. It's true with friends, family, partners, and it's also true at work. You've got to set healthy boundaries. 00:31 [The Way We Work] 00:35 Boundaries can be an intimidating term, but they're very simply the expectations and needs that help us feel safe and comfortable in relationships. 00:46 Work is the relationship we spend the most time in, and yet it's also the place where we have the hardest time setting limits. We're scared that people won't see us as a team player. Our employers have boundaries built in, like the time your workday begins and how many vacation days you can have. But work boundaries need to be a two-way street: boundaries for your employer and boundaries for you. Setting them can help you feel happier and more fulfilled in your roles, not to mention less exhausted and overwhelmed at work. 01:24 We often assume that other people have the same rules for life as we do. We think they can tell our preferences and know our feelings from our body language. But no one, not the people you've known for years and certainly not your coworkers, can read your mind. You have to explicitly state what you need. Communicating what works for us is one of the kindest things we can do. The short-term discomfort is so worth it for the long-term ease of having healthier boundaries in the workplace. Here are three steps to help you get started. 02:01 Step one: identify the boundaries you need to set. There are so many different kinds. For example, you can tell a colleague what hours you are and aren't available to work. You can share that you need to leave the office promptly at five to pick up your children or that you log off fully on the weekends to really recharge. You can tell them how you prefer to communicate, that you enjoy talking by phone rather than instant messaging or texting. Especially with your bosses, you can set boundaries around how you like feedback. You can say, "I work best with clear deadlines. Can you please set one?" Or you can tell them you like written notes on your work so you have time to digest the feedback. You can set boundaries on how you interact with people socially. For example, “It makes me feel uncomfortable when you share gossip at my desk.” Or “No, I’m not interested in drinks after work, but I'd love to go to a yoga class with you." You can even set boundaries around your calendar and ask that people ask you before throwing a meeting on it as you prefer to be aware of what your day looks like. 03:16 Step two: think about how and when to make the statement. Boundaries are like classroom rules. You want to set them as early as possible. People do it all the time in the job seeking process. They may say something like, “I have vacation planned for these dates. Will I be able to take my vacation?" If we can go into a new work environment and with people already knowing what we can and can't do, that's a beautiful way to show up. If that feels like too much, orientation can be a great time to set boundaries. When your supervisor tells you the workday ends at six, just flow it in. "That's perfect. I need to leave work at six." One boundary I want you to set right away is to take every single day of paid vacation. You’ve earned it, you need the rest, and recharging is good for work-life balance. And by the way, it's perfectly acceptable to set boundaries for yourself when you notice something in the workday isn't making you feel good. So if you get a headache when you have five meetings in a day, tell yourself that four will be your maximum. If you get anxious trying to respond to 200 emails on Monday morning, don't do that first thing. Break it up in half-hour increments throughout the day. 04:40 I have a set of boundaries around my work. For me, I like working in 30-minute chunks. I don't like answering every email as soon as I get it. I like sitting with the information before I respond. You have to set in motion those new habits and practices that will make you feel at ease. 05:00 And now comes the most important part of the process. Step three: you have to stick to the boundaries you set. If you say you're not available after six, don't respond to the group chat. If you say you're not available on weekends, don't be available on weekends. When you respond to emails or agree to look at that proposal out of those bounds, you're teaching people that the boundary isn't real, that it’s OK to violate it. Consistency is really key here. That might mean restating the boundary more than once. That might mean reminding yourself why you set the boundary in the first place. 05:45 Setting boundaries is hard at first, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. Boundaries are contagious. Once you start to consistently implement them, others will, too. You might be the inspiration that helps them set better boundaries. Even if they don't have the courage right now, it's now in the back of their mind.