Tag: attitude and approach

6/13/11 “Healthy Boundaries”

Good day, team,

This past week the subject of setting healthy boundaries came up on several occasions. Here’s a previous challenge that addresses this subject.

The coach’s challenge this week is about setting healthy boundaries with people at work. Professional boundaries are important because they define the limits and responsibilities of the people with whom you interact in the workplace. When everyone in an organization is made aware who is responsible for what, healthier workplace environments are created. It then becomes very difficult for someone to blame others for their failed or inadequate performance and good job performance can clearly be identified.

When everyone on your team understands what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, team members feel safe in their roles. A smooth functioning organization is a tangible demonstration of the team leader’s commitment to their team’s success, which creates trust in leadership. It is the responsibility of every team leader to set the tone of the group by clearly defining acceptable and unacceptable workplace behavior. An effective leader understands that failing to define boundaries, having no boundaries, or having inappropriately rigid boundaries can have an unfavorable impact on their organization and employees. In some cases boundaries need to be firm. For example, lying, stealing, or verbally or physically abusing others is never allowed.

It may sound as if the responsibility to create a smooth functioning organization falls only upon the team leaders or managers; however team members have a role to play as well. It is the responsibility of everyone on the team to be willing to speak up to a colleague or supervisor and clearly define their problem and help find a resolution that works for the team.

Another important area that should be negotiated is interpersonal boundaries, because professional and interpersonal boundaries substantially impact workplace productivity and the quality of social environment. Interpersonal boundary parameters include:

* The tone people use with each other.
* The attitude and approach co-workers use with each other.
* The ability to focus on work objectives even with people you don’t
like or with whom you are having personal conflict.
* The ability to effectively set limits with others who have poor
* Clearly defining the consequences when a boundary is violated and
sticking to it.

Boundaries will have no meaning if your actions don’t back up your words.

Here are some suggestions for setting healthy boundaries with your team members:

1. Know your limits: what you can do well within the allotted time frame.
Don’t exaggerate your ability by overselling it. Give accurate estimates. Delivering a good product on time will improve your credibility, while missing deadlines or delivering a substandard product will only hurt your reputation.

2. Tactfully and openly communicate about goals and limitations.
Don’t try to undersell or misrepresent your ability. Underselling artificially prevents you from being able to demonstrate your professional skills, which might affect your career advancement. When discussing your limitations, focus on what you want and what you are willing to do to get it. Keep your focus on your positive intentions; ask for help when it’s needed to ensure good quality work; actively engage in problem solving, and don’t complain about the problem. Ensure that others are receiving the message you intended by asking for feedback when it’s not forthcoming.

3. Be available to discuss differences and reach agreements.
Reflect back your understanding of the other person’s needs, interests, and concerns. Attempt to negotiate win-win solutions.

4. Don’t be afraid to let someone know if they’re acting inappropriately. Work place bullying is much more common than we think; it can come in the form of expressing undo negativity towards another, intentionally excluding others from team activities, or ganging up on someone. It can also come in the form of domination by withholding information or not keeping one’s part of the bargain by actively engaging and contributing to the work. It’s important to let people know when they act out inappropriately and that it is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated. The emotional health and safety of an organization depends on direct and clear communication when someone has trespassed on a professional and/or personal boundary.

This week, try setting healthy boundaries with your team members. You’ll find that establishing boundaries and priorities go hand in hand because they both help manage interpersonal relationships in the workplace. Together they go a long way toward establishing productive work environments based on trust. Competent and credible leaders understand these principles and consistently model them for their staff.

Have a great week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

* Special thanks to the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) at UCSF for most of the information in this challenge. They are a great resource!

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