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5 Steps to Establishing Clear Boundaries at Work

Live Happy blogger, best-selling author and workplace wellbeing coach Michelle McQuaid presents this series of interviews entitled "Show Up, Shine and Succeed." This is the last of five insightful, informative posts, each with a different positive psychology expert speaking on topics related to happiness, confidence and success in the workplace.

Do you have trouble saying “no” to people at work?  Many of us find setting boundaries to be a challenge.

Yes, I can take on that extra project, although my days are already too full. Yes, I can have that difficult conversation, even though it’s your responsibility and not mine. Yes, I can work over the weekend, even though my family and friends had plans. 

Sound familiar ?

“Learning to set and keep clear boundaries with your boss and colleagues is essential if you want to remain happy and productive at work,” explains best-selling author and productivity coach Valorie Burton.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

“Boundaries are a definition. Think of it like owning a house; your property has a specific boundary around that property. Everything inside the boundary is your responsibility, and what’s outside is not,” suggests Valorie. “When we begin to blur those lines, we find ourselves in situations that become very frustrating.”

Setting boundaries means learning when to say no. It means asking for the respect we want, and balancing our needs and responsibilities. Valorie recommends trying these five steps to effectively setting boundaries at work:

1. Establish your boundaries 

Start by asking yourself, what are the boundaries you need to protect your own happiness at work. Try to clearly envision what it would be like if these boundaries were respected and gracefully enforced. Ask yourself: “What does that give me? How does it feel when I am operating at my optimal potential?”

Then notice the areas where you currently feel frustrated, stressed or overwhelmed, and how, when and by whom these boundaries are being crossed.

2. Challenge the stories that hold you back 

When it comes to setting boundaries, we often catastrophize about the consequences of saying ‘no’ to other people at work. It takes a lot of courage to sit down with your boss and say, “I need to do this differently. Can we talk this through?” What if it upsets them, or even puts your job at rish? Ask yourself: “What am I afraid will happen if I do?”  Make the space for self-reflection and write out what you need to say this person to help you feel more confident about honoring the boundaries you require to maintain your happiness and success at work.

3. Start with one conversation

Don't try to set all your boundaries at once. Take it one conversation at a time and practice identifying, asking for and keeping a boundary. Notice what works, adjust what doesn’t and keep moving forward to make these conversations an effective part of the way you work.

4. Enforce your boundaries 

Create a plan of action for what will happen when your boundaries are crossed. Be sure to compassionately let people know when you feel your boundaries are not being respected (most people will mean no malice, but may be unaware of the impact their behavior is having on you). Communicate clearly what choices you will need to make in order to honor the boundaries you’ve set to ensure you can successfully support yourself, your team and your organization.

5. Pay attention to what works

When you begin progressing and setting better boundaries, give yourself credit for each step forward. You’ll find, just like a baby learning to walk, from time to time you may stumble. Setting boundaries takes practice so give yourself permission to keep learning and growing knowing that this is a skill vital for your success and happiness.

For more ways to approaches to set boundaries successfully at work be sure to visit Valorie’s website at www.valorieburton.com and check out her wonderful books for creating happiness at work and in life.

And if you’d like more tested, practical ways to show up, shine and succeed at work visit https://www.showupshineandsucceed.com.


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