4 Steps for Setting Healthy Boundaries at Work

Author: Casey Gale       

Business event strategists are expected to almost always be on the clock, which is why it is crucial to set boundaries to preserve work/life balance and avoid burnout. But as Melody Wilding, a high-performance coach and professor of human behavior at Hunter College, writes in a recent Quartz at Work article, “creating healthy boundaries at work can be difficult because there’s the real worry of being demoted, fired, or disliked.”

That said, Wilding suggests that with clear communication and tact, workers in any industry can — and should — set boundaries without feeling major repercussions at work. Here are a few pieces of advice from the article on how to navigate this difficult topic:

1. Figure out where limits need to be set, and what needs to change in order for that to happen. “When I work with clients who feel like work is consuming their lives, we conduct a boundary audit,” Wilding writes. “This involves paying attention to people, situations, and personal actions that cause them distress or discomfort.” Wilding says that experiencing three key emotions — guilt, resentment, and anger — means that a personal boundary has been crossed and needs to be addressed.

2. Define what needs to change. Once someone is able to identify what areas at work feel most problematic, they can start to set up a boundary to exert more control. For example, Wilding writes, someone with direct reports might ask that they drop by their office during pre-set office hours, instead of at all times during the day.

3. Communicate clearly. “Healthy boundaries aren’t meant to punish; they’re meant to be mutually beneficial and supportive,” Wilding writes. “If you have to set a boundary with another person, think of approaching the conversation like a negotiation.” This means asking the person you’re speaking with to describe the situation from their perspective, and be sure to keep the lines of communication open. “You need to understand the other person’s needs and desires in addition to being up-front about your own perspective. Don’t get defensive,” Wilding says, “communicate assertively.”

4. Be prepared for pushback. Boundary-crossers might not take kindly to new personal rules. In fact, they might continue to cross some boundaries — and that is okay, Wilding says. “It’s helpful to anticipate these moments of violation. Visualize your boundaries getting crossed,” she writes, so that you can prepare for “how you’ll handle those situations.”