8 rules to set personal boundaries at your new job

It is important to set boundaries, before someone else does it for you. (Shutterstock)

Bear these rules in mind and set some boundaries at work. Because if you don’t, someone else will set boundaries for you.

When starting a new job, you are eager to impress everyone and take on every single task co-workers ask you to do. However, you want to be careful to not cross some personal boundaries. You don’t want to be the person to get all the dirty jobs because you always say yes. You also don’t want your boss to have excessively high expectations of you because you took on too much when you first arrived.

To help you set some personal boundaries at a new job so you can have a healthy work-life balance, we’ve listed some simple rules to keep in mind.

Rule number 1: Know your values

To be able to set boundaries, you need to understand your personal values and needs. Think about how much time you need for your personal life and your passions, and set some boundaries to maintain a good work-life balance accordingly.

Determine what your priorities are, before you approach your boss about limits about working overtime. If your professional accomplishments are your priority right now, then it’s ok to adjust accordingly.

Rule number 2: Avoid company-issued devices when possible

If not required, it is better to politely decline the offer of company-issued devices like a mobile phone. This will set an important boundary between your time at the office and your private time. People are more likely to refrain from calling you on your personal phone outside office hours. You also won’t be taking your work home with you, and as a result, you will never develop an addiction to the device

Rule number 3: Consider the expectations of others

No company will change their work flow to accommodate your needs. When setting boundaries it is important to consider the culture and norms of the organization. This means that you may have to compromise and negotiate a little, because everyone has different ideas about what is deemed reasonable. 

Rule number 4: Be transparent

You don’t need to give every little detail about what you are doing in your private life and why you need to leave to office or decline an after work event, but being transparent to a certain level will make setting boundaries a whole lot easier.

By communicating the basics, for instance, that you’re going to a weekly sports class, you will not come off as dismissive or unenthusiastic.

Rule number 5: Be concrete

When setting boundaries it is important to be concrete about why you are doing so. Don’t state that you need this time because ‘You’re really stressed’ or ‘you have so much to do’. You don’t want to be perceived as a whining co-worker.

Make the bottom line relevant to your boss by giving a concrete example why the request is unreasonable. For instance, say something like: “if we prioritise this now, we will lose this big client because…”

Rule number 6: Be consistent

If you want your personal boundaries to be taken seriously, you need to be consistent. If your boundaries change with the wind, co-workers will not hesitate to cross the lines you’ve previously drawn, because no one knows where exactly these lines are anymore.

Rule number 7: Use ‘No, but…’

Don’t keep turning down request without showing your good will as well. When politely refusing, make a suggestion of how you are willing to show commitment and are indeed a team player.

Focus on what you can do to help, instead of what you cannot do.

Rule number 8: Prepare for violations

Building boundaries takes time, and whether you were very clear in the beginning or not, they will most likely be overstepped by co-workers. When that time comes, be prepared and have a plan of action for what you’re going to do or say.

For example, when a co-worker starts gossiping about someone to you, show clearly and politely how you feel. Telling them weeks later how you wish you wouldn’t have been involved is much less effective. Similarly, when your boss is emailing or calling you over the weekend, plan beforehand how you will react. This way you will be able to deal with it rationally and not let your emotions ruin your professionalism.

Bear these rules in mind and set some boundaries at work. Because if you don’t, someone else will set boundaries for you.

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