How to Set Boundaries at Work
Setting limits at work might be difficult, but it is also important to your well-being. Studies show that employees who have a greater say in their work circumstances report less job stress.1
“Your 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,” says Nedra Glover Tawwab in her TED Talk, “Your 3-Step Guide to Setting Better Boundaries at Work.”2 Tawwab is a therapist and the author of Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself.
If you are ready to tackle the important task of creating a work environment that fosters your success, Tawwab and other experts have some ideas to get you started.
Setting boundaries can begin in a job interview or during negotiations for a job offer. Lay the groundwork by discussing with the hiring manager the issues that are important to you.2 These discussions may tell you how compatible you and the organization are.
“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,” says Tawwab.2
Define Your Boundaries
First, consider what is most important to you. Do you need to leave the office promptly at the end of the workday? Do you want to enjoy your free time without having to check email? Maybe you need more work-from-home days, or an uninterrupted lunch break to destress.2
If you need help identifying work stresses and developing a plan to address them, you might want to consult a licensed professional counselor or your HR manager. Career counselors, therapists, and other mental health professionals can help you develop the skills necessary to set boundaries and excel at work.
Once you know what you need, you can work for it. But keep in mind that on the job, as in life, you may not get everything you want.
Identify the Decision-Maker
You will need your manager’s approval to create a boundary that differs from an official or informal company procedure. For example: If you’ve been expected to answer email 24/7, and you now want to modify that, you’ll need to negotiate the change with your manager.
There are some boundaries you can and should establish for yourself. If co-workers routinely interrupt your lunch break, for example, you can discuss your expectations with them directly. If they continue to disregard your boundaries, and you’re not in a supervisory role, you may want to seek guidance from your HR manager or supervisor.
It’s always a good idea to plan and practice important workplace conversations. Effective communication is vital for defining boundaries, both at work and at home.
“When someone crosses your boundaries, even though it can be uncomfortable, it’s important to say something,” Kia-Rai Prewitt, a Cleveland Clinic psychologist, says in a Cleveland Clinic newsletter. “You want to be specific about the issue. Let the other person know what the issue is … and how you want to move forward.”3
“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,” Tawwab says in her TED Talk.
Experts emphasize the importance of setting and sticking to boundaries. But no job is perfect and there may be times when you must disregard a boundary to help with an unexpected project or crisis. Just remember to rebuild and recommunicate your boundary when the project is complete.
Become a Licensed Professional Counselor
Does the idea of helping people grow personally and professionally inspire you? If so, you may want to pursue a career in counseling. Walden University’s online MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree program can academically prepare you to seek licensure or certification as a professional mental health counselor.
Walden lets you tailor your online counseling degree to your career interests. You can choose the General Program or one of five optional specializations: Addiction Counseling; Forensic Counseling; Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling; Military Families and Culture; and Trauma and Crisis Counseling.
Walden’s online program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). CACREP accreditation means the program aligns with professional standards. A master’s degree from a CACREP-accredited program is also a requirement for licensure in many states.
Earning a clinical mental health counseling degree can prepare you for a rewarding career helping people build more satisfying lives and careers.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.
Walden University’s MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which is a requirement for licensure in many states. The MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is designed to prepare graduates to qualify to sit for licensing exams and to meet the academic licensure requirements of many state counseling boards. Because no graduate program can guarantee licensure upon graduation, we encourage students to consult the appropriate agency to determine specific requirements. For more information about licensure, students should visit the National Board for Certified Counselors at www.nbcc.org/stateboard, the American Association of State Counseling Boards at www.aascb.org, and contact the appropriate licensing body. International students are encouraged to identify and contact their appropriate licensing body. Learn more about professional licensure.
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