Think You Can’t Set Boundaries at Work? Here’s 5 Ways How

Do you want freedom over your days and how you spend your time at the office? 

If you answered with a resounding “YES,” then it’s essential that you learn how to create boundaries with those around you. 

Learning how to be comfortable with creating boundaries is our main topic of discussion on Episode 146 this week, and it’s pretty easy to understand why: more often than not, we feel guilty when it comes to setting boundaries.

In a world that continually pushes us to keep moving, we try to busy ourselves with as much as possible. We add more and more tasks and responsibilities onto our plate, and we have a hard time effectively saying no to those around us – even when we know that we should.

But in an effort to make those around us happy (both at home and in the workplace), we end up chasing our tail, feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, and, quite frankly, exhausted.

So today, I want to encourage you to take a step back from all of the busyness and allow yourself the opportunity to dive into the concept of setting up healthy, concrete boundaries for yourself at work . . .

Because even if you think that it’s just not possible . . . I am here to tell you that it is.

Let’s get started!


5 Ways to Set Boundaries at Work

Remember Your Values – 

Here’s the thing: if you have a handle on your values, it’s easier to set up systems that will ensure that those needs are met.

If, for example, spending as much time as possible with your family and friends, volunteering, or running marathons is a priority for you, for example, then creating a boundary for yourself to avoid working overtime and on weekends becomes almost second nature.

By looking at the things you’re most passionate about (i.e., your values), you can get a better sense of where you would like to set your boundaries.


Be Clear –

Here’s another thing: if you want to ensure that your boundaries won’t be crossed, it’s imperative you lay out your limits as clearly as possible.

One way you might approach this is in terms of your availability. If, for example, you’ve set a boundary for yourself to avoid working long hours, then a great way to be clear about your limits is to communicate your hours of availability to your boss, colleagues, and clients. 

Offering a specific time frame of when you’ll be around to accept phone calls, answer emails, and to schedule and attend meetings is a great way to communicate your availability effectively.

The more communicative you are about the boundaries you’ve set (whatever they may be), the easier it will be for those around you to get on board.


Speak Up –

We have all experienced a moment when our lines have been crossed, right? It doesn’t feel good, no matter the situation.

But how often have you permitted yourself to speak up about it?

When it comes to setting up and maintaining boundaries for yourself, whether we’re talking about boundaries at home or work, we must learn to open up and communicate when one of those boundaries has been compromised.

Referring back to our previous example about hours of availability: if a colleague calls you over the weekend to ask about a project coming up, be firm about where your boundary is by saying something like, I will be available to talk more about this on Monday, or, I will catch up with you when I’m back in work mode

Another great way to exercise a “no work on the weekends” boundary is to unplug

Give yourself permission to turn your work phone off the moment you set foot outside of the office on Friday afternoon, and stay away from your email until your hours of availability kick in again on Monday. Do what works best for you!

The main takeaway here is that if we don’t reinforce and exercise our boundary when we feel it’s being crossed, it loses power.


Employ the Sandwich Strategy – 

Being comfortable with saying “No” to an opportunity or new responsibility at work that will not serve you in achieving your professional goals can be tough. Still, it’s important that we give ourselves permission to do it anyway.

A great way to get around any discomfort you feel when it comes to saying “No” is to employ the sandwich strategy that we talked about in a previous post and that I discuss in-depth in my book The Joy of Missing Out.

By sandwiching our “No” answer between two messages of kindness, we can take some of the uneasiness we often experience when we’re afraid to say “No” to our boss or a colleague out of the equation, and reinforce our boundaries without missing a single beat.


Be Prepared –

It’s no secret: it bodes well for us in all facets of life when we are prepared for what lies ahead! And this is especially true when it comes to our boundaries.

I want to encourage you to visualize your boundaries being crossed. How might you handle the situation when it crops up? 

By imagining your boundaries being crossed and developing a systematic protocol on how to process it, you’ll be less likely to feel hijacked by your emotions (and unable to handle the situation effectively) when the violation occurs. 



What do you do when your boundaries at work are crossed? Share any boundary-setting tips and tricks that you have up your sleeve in the comments below . . . 

And tune in to Episode 146 this week where I’m talking with Donna, my second guest of Season 12 of Productivity Paradox, all about learning when (and how) to say no effectively. We also discuss how to set up healthy boundaries at home with kids, so that we can take some of the busyness out of our days and get back to doing more of the things that we love instead!

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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton