We all want our workplace relationships to be healthy and chilled rather than, well, the opposite of that. Most of us also want to work in environments where we feel happy, respected, valued and can thrive. This is where boundary-setting comes in.

So let's dive into what boundaries are, the importance of setting boundaries, and how to set them up in your work environment.

Right, what are your boundaries?

Boundaries are basically the rules or guidelines we set within relationships and environments to identify healthy ways for other people to treat us, how we will behave towards others, and how we will respond when someone breaks those limits. It's that line in the sand that separates what behaviour is okay and what isn't. Our own boundaries are set by a mix of beliefs, opinions, attitudes, past experiences and social learning (what others tell us is right and wrong).

So why are boundaries important then?

Well, boundaries establish self-care, they help us create a sense of identity and self-worth. Having healthy boundaries keeps us safe, maintains positive relationships and helps support positive mental health.

If we don't maintain our healthy boundaries, we can end up feeling warn down, taken advantage of, and/or intruded upon, leading to feelings of hurt, anger, resentfulness, powerlessness and burn out.

Cool. What's this about setting limits then?

Now that you have the lowdown on what boundaries are, the next step is to maintain them by making decisions that are in line with those boundaries. For example, how often do you want to commit to extra shifts or working overtime? How much notice would you prefer when being asked to take on extra shifts or projects? Are you able to get home safely if you do extend your hours? Do you want to date someone at work? How often do you want to help out that work colleague with their workload before it impacts on yours?

How do I know if my boundaries are being crossed?

There are common scenarios where you might be asked to take on extra work, to complete an additional project, or to cover for someone that is unwell (particularly since COVID-19 became an issue). So you might feel okay taking on extra work from time to time. However if these requests become common place, your own work performance and health might suffer, in which case your personal boundaries are being crossed.

If someone makes a comment or behaves towards you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, your personal boundaries are being crossed. You could be shocked, your heart rate could increase, you might feel sick to the stomach, you might avoid eye contact, or you may start avoiding that person.

In the above scenarios, you will recognise that you are feeling hurt, angry, upset, used. They are all signs a person has stepped over your personal boundaries. If you're in doubt and need a reality check, talk to a trusted friend, work colleague, or loved one to check if they might also feel uncomfortable in the same situation.

How do others know when they've crossed my line? Tell them!

Once you've figured out your boundaries, it's important to communicate them. Make sure you're clear, concise, and respectful when someone comes close to or crosses that line. If someone makes unwanted sexual advances towards you, have a reply ready. Some examples of these scenarios include:

  • "Sorry, I can't stay back tonight. I catch the bus home and the last one leaves at 7pm. With a day's notice I can drive the car to work and do the overtime".

  • "I'd like to stay back but the last bus leaves at 7pm so I need to leave on time."

  • "Sorry I don't date anyone from work" or "I appreciate your interest but I'm not looking to date anyone right now".

If you have tried to maintain your personal boundaries and the same issue arises, bring it up with your manager. If it is your manager causing concern, raise it with your HR team (sometimes called the People and Culture team), or contact Sonder for a private chat to get direction and advice. Just know that our team is available 24/7 to talk to you.

By protecting your personal boundaries, you are taking care of yourself. This means you can maintain your own job, be true to yourself while keeping yourself as healthy as possible.

Related reading:

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Information sourced from: The Resilience Centre, Upskilled, and EAP Counselling.

Image credit: Horrible Bosses

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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