Setting boundaries is a natural part of life. It helps us maintain healthy relationships with friends, family, and coworkers. Yet professional boundaries don't come up nearly as often as they should. Let's take a few minutes to discuss professional boundaries, their benefits, and why they matter so much.
Professional boundaries are individuals' rules and limitations to maintain their mental health. Like all boundaries, they are highly individualized. What works for one person may not work for another.
For example, a professional boundary may be the decision to avoid checking work emails when off the clock. Or it may be a person learning to say no to additional workloads. It's all about finding what works for you - and avoiding what doesn't work.
The Benefits of Establishing Professional Boundaries
There are countless potential benefits to setting (and maintaining) professional boundaries. Boundaries help keep people safe and happy, so maintaining them should always be supported and encouraged.
Setting boundaries between coworkers give people a clear understanding of what is and isn't appropriate while at work. It also informs them of their shared responsibilities and roles within this relationship. While this may sound complicated, it generally does simplify any concerns down the road. Establishing these boundaries early on will also help manage expectations, helping others create realistic goals.
As mentioned above, some of these boundaries can be established by individuals. They can also be put in place by companies and leaders. For example, basic rules regarding behavior are essentially boundaries, just on a larger scale.
In effect, establishing boundaries is a step towards better self-care. A person who establishes their boundaries has created a line in the sand, listing out the behaviors they will and will not tolerate.
The Importance of Professional Boundaries
People may be hesitant to create boundaries (both personally and professionally) because they fear others judging them or disliking them for this. However, boundaries help build healthy relationships. Even those that may not be friendly toward you will likely respect you for standing up and creating boundaries for yourself. Ideally, your doing so may encourage them to do the same!
Establishing boundaries means defending your personal space, privacy, and mental health. When your privacy and health are respected, it makes you feel heard. Naturally, this helps people feel better about themselves - and the coworkers respecting these boundaries.
People actively show respect when they listen to boundaries and try to stay within those lines. It may seem like a small thing, but it can turn an uncomfortable situation into a mutually beneficial interaction in the workplace.
Examples of Professional Boundaries
The best way to decide your professional boundaries is by looking at your personal needs. However, one can always look at examples of professional boundaries to get a better idea of what can be done. Here are a few examples:
- Time-Off/Vacation Boundaries - An employee has made it clear that when they will not be accepting work calls while they are off the clock. Since they will be on vacation soon, they have made a point of reminding coworkers that they will be unavailable for a set period of time.
- Communication Boundaries - An employee feels comfortable communicating with coworkers but makes a point of only ever being professional. In other words, they've decided not to try and cross any lines.
- Behavioral Boundaries - An employee has made it clear that they do not want to be involved in workplace gossip. When a coworker approaches them trying to indulge in the sharing of gossip, they choose to walk away from the situation.
The above examples are only three potential boundaries out of thousands worth considering. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide your professional boundaries and how they should be implemented.
About the Creator
Annittra Atler is the associate superintendent of special education for Albuquerque Public Schools. She has over 20 years of experience in the field of special education.
Visit AnnittraAtler.com to see more!