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  • Writer's pictureBree Vanley

The Art of Setting Healthy Boundaries: Navigating Relationships In the Workplace

Happy October, HMT family! Welcome back to our blogpost series on BOUNDARIES and how to set healthy ones in different areas of our lives. If you missed the first post in this new series, don't worry – it's never too late to catch up and read it here.

group of co-workers

Today, we will build upon the foundation of the art of setting healthy boundaries, but with an emphasis on navigating relationships with co-workers and supervisors. We will look at why boundaries matters in the workplace and provide you with some helpful tips in setting boundaries with your co-workers and supervisors. So, let's dive right in and explore the art of setting healthy boundaries within the workplace.

Why Healthy Boundaries matter at work

Maintaining healthy boundaries is crucial for your well-being and professional success. Whether you're dealing with co-workers or supervisors, setting and maintaining appropriate boundaries is key to a harmonious workplace. Remember, boundaries are the lines we draw around ourselves to protect our well-being.

1. Work/Life Balance

Maintaining boundaries helps you to create a balance between your professional life and your personal life. An indicator that you do not have healthy workplace boundaries might be: answering emails or taking work calls during your lunch hours or after work hours. When left unchecked, this can lead to burnout and stress.

2. Respect and Professionalism

Healthy boundaries promote respect and professionalism in the workplace. When you clearly define your limits, you command respect from your colleagues and supervisors, setting a positive tone for interactions. This looks like knowing how much of a workload you are able to take on at one time and clearly communicating that. It can also look like not overextending yourself when unnecessary.

"Boundaries...[create] a healthy balance that benefits both you and your colleagues."

3. Preventing Conflicts

Boundaries can prevent misunderstandings and conflicts. Clearly defined boundaries ensure that everyone knows what to expect and what is acceptable behavior in the workplace. If you are uncomfortable with how a co-worker or supervisor talks to you or jokes with you, set up a boundary so that they clearly understand that a line has been drawn on what is acceptable or unacceptable to you.

How to set healthy boundaries with co-workers

1. Define Your Workspace

Define your workspace physically. If you want to limit foot traffic to your office from co-workers, have your office or desk organized and free from distractions. This sends a clear message that you're focused on your tasks instead of socializing.

2. Be Clear about Communication

Set expectations for communication with co-workers. Let them know your preferred method of communication and your availability. For example, if you are not a person who likes to talk as soon as you clock in, clearly communicate that to your co-workers and provide an alternative time when you are available to talk with them. If you need time to focus on work, don't hesitate to set your status as "busy" or "do not disturb.", or to fully close your office door.

"Blurring the boundary lines between your work life and professional life can lead to several issues ."

3. Manage Social Interactions

While it's important to build rapport with your co-workers, be mindful of overextending yourself socially. Social interactions within the workplace or during work hours should be polite, clear, and concise. If you do not feel comfortable sharing personal details of your life to co-workers, you are under no obligation to do so; however, it should be communicated properly with your co-workers so that they understand that that is a boundary for you.

You are also under no obligation to hang with co-workers after work. Blurring the boundary lines between your work life and professional life can lead to several issues like: invasion of privacy, stress, anxiety, stunted career growth, and more. Use caution with your social interactions. Make sure that you are communicating clearly to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding.

4. Delegate Appropriately

Avoid taking on more work than you can handle. It's okay to say "no" when you are already swamped with tasks. Remember, taking on too much can lead to stress, anxiety, and eventually, burnout.

How to set healthy boundaries with Supervisors

1. Clarify Expectations

Have a conversation with your supervisor to clarify expectations and priorities. Knowing what is expected of you will help you manage your workload and set realistic boundaries.

2. Communicate Limits

Politely communicate your boundaries to your supervisor. For example, if you can't stay late due to family commitments, let them know in advance and provide an alternative solution.

3. Advocate for Self-Care

Don't hesitate to advocate for self-care. If you're feeling overwhelmed, speak up about the need for breaks and time off to recharge.

4. Set Technology Boundaries

Discuss email and communication expectations outside of office hours with your supervisor to avoid feeling pressured to respond 24/7.

5. Seek support

If your boundaries are consistently being crossed or if you're struggling to maintain them, don't hesitate to seek support from HR or a mentor within your organization.

**We do understand that some job positions were created under the disclaimer of being "high-stress" or "fast-paced" or "on-call". Naturally, the tips provided in this section will collide with the obligations for those positions. You can, however, still talk with your supervisor about self-care options. If you notice that you are getting overwhelmed or burned out, ask about alternatives and/or look at taking some time off work to reset, recharge, and replenish. If you find that the job position no longer fit the boundaries you wish to set, there is nothing wrong with seeking a position that will allow you to have the healthy boundaries you wish to establish.**

In a Nutshell

Healthy boundaries at work are essential for your mental and emotional well-being, as well as your professional growth. By establishing clear boundaries with your co-workers and supervisors, you create a more harmonious work environment that fosters respect, professionalism, and effective communication. Remember that boundaries are not about building walls but about creating a healthy balance that benefits both you and your colleagues. By implementing the tips outlined in this blog post, you can navigate workplace relationships with confidence and success!

Bree Vanley, LPC

Bree Vanley is the CEO of Heart Matters Therapy, PLLC. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the State of Arkansas and Texas, who focuses primarily on anxiety, grief, and trauma. She is committed to helping individuals enhance their emotional and mental health. For more information, please click here.

You can also follow Heart Matters Therapy, PLLC on Facebook and Instagram.


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