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Setting boundaries with Coworkers

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

Setting boundaries with coworkers can be particularly challenging.

woman with assignments being handed to her from all directions. Depicts the importance of boundaries with coworkers.

In this post, we offer a few tips for the most common boundary trespassers: The over-steppers and pushers.

It's time to face a truth as inevitable as Monday mornings: No matter how effective you become at setting boundaries with your coworkers, there will always be those who try to push or overstep them.

I like to think of it as a dance where with practice, you can skillfully glide around those who may unknowingly or even intentionally challenge your productivity barriers. Fortunately, barre practice is not required, just a healthy dose of patience, assertiveness, and understanding.

The first step is to recognize the signs. Boundary pushers often disregard your 'No' or expect you to compromise your personal time for work. They’re the ones sending you emails at midnight or piling on more tasks when you're already overloaded.

Once you identify these dance partners, how do you respond? Here's the skill building part, the key lies in a blend of firm assertiveness and respectful dialogue. You don't want to step on their toes, but you also need to maintain your space and hold your values in place.

Start with a clear, simple response that acknowledges their request but reaffirms your boundary. For instance, if you get a late-night email, you could reply the next morning saying something along the lines of "I've noticed your email was sent after hours. To maintain my productivity, I hold firm and respond to non-critical work communications during office hours. I appreciate your understanding."

In most cases, this will suffice. But sometimes, you'll encounter a persistent over stepper. This is where you need to have a direct conversation, explaining your expectations and hearing theirs.

Share your approach to maintaining your job satisfaction, productivity, and well-being. Find out what theirs is. Remember, this isn’t a confrontational showdown. It’s a civil discourse aimed at mutual understanding and respect. You may even plant a seedling of a path to better wellness for them.

There's no one-size-fits-all in the boundary dance. Each dance partner might require a different approach. While some will understand a gentle nudge, others may need a more assertive reminder. The goal isn’t to alienate your co-workers but to foster an environment of mutual respect where everyone can perform their best.

Finally, keep these two things in mind: empathy and boundaries are a two-way street. Sometimes, a boundary pusher might not even realize they're crossing the line. And you may not recognize that at other times, you cross their line. We're all human and we're all learning this dance as we go along.

These are a few tips to handle the boundary dance with grace and aplomb.

If you’d like additional tips for holding your boundaries, check out our series on our YouTube Channel.

Stay with us for our next post on creating boundaries when working from home.



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