Features, Simply Law

How To Set Better Boundaries At Work

Image of Trudy O. Glasgow
By Trudy O. Glasgow B.A., LL.B
(Hons), BVC, LL.M, P.C.H.E

GETTING a new employee should mean setting the boundaries from the beginning of the working relationship. Further, for employees who have been working with you for a while, the employer may see the need to establish boundaries to improve the existing working relationship. Here are some tips to get you started.

1.Great expectations or no expectations? : This depends on the culture of the business that you are working for, the nature of your job and your employee. The employee’s role should be clearly defined from the outset with a job description. This can be in the form of an oral or written agreement. The Labour Code does not insist on written job descriptions and employment contracts, but this is preferable as memories fade and either party may not recall exactly what was established.

2.Set clear limits: if you are the employer or a supervisor, it may be easier for you to set clear limits in terms of what you are willing to do; for example, during your lunch hour, and what you are not. Further, if the office does not have a policy for a particular matter, for example dating within the workplace, it is up to you to make a mature decision about whether or not it is appropriate to date someone at the office and the consequences of this to you and continued employment with the business if the relationship goes pear-shaped.

3.Say what those limits are: you may have determined what your individual limits are, but have you communicated this to your co-workers in a non-confrontational way? It may not be organic to simply indicate at a meeting, that you are not willing to work after 5pm on a Friday because you have to take your son to a cricket match, however, routine engagements after hours which will not easily permit you to work overtime, should be communicated, in a subtle and appropriate way, to the management with alternative suggested times to put in the extra hours as needed.

4.Re-examine your relationship with your employer/employee: if you have already been working at your job for several months or years, it will be more difficult to start setting boundaries or realigning boundaries at work. Difficult but not impossible. Start with a mental assessment of your relationship with your co-workers. Do you get along very well or not so well? Why do you think that is? And what can you do to improve the situation?

5.Take good care of yourself: we are all guilty of skipping breakfast because we are running late in the morning or lunch to meet an urgent deadline. Eating well, sleeping well and getting some exercise is a very good start to taking care of yourself physically and mentally.

6.Seek advice: not sure how to start setting boundaries at work? Seek advice from someone who has done so successfully and get some guidance on how to implement it, when to start, and who to start it with.

7.Let it evolve gradually: Once you have made the decision to set boundaries at work, generally there is no rush in it materialising. It can happen over time.

8.Say ‘NO’ sometimes: One of the ways that you can set boundaries is to say simply ‘NO’. If you usually say ‘YES’ to every request of your co-workers, it will eventually be to your detriment. Assess whether or not you have the time and energy to accommodate each request and if it is something that you simply cannot do, do not be afraid to decline in a polite way.

9.Does your smartphone rule your life? : Are you always on your smartphone at work? Whether you are using it to respond to questions from clients or personal use, you need to set some guidelines on when it is reasonable to be using your phone. If there is no office policy in place for this, it is important to determine this for yourself.

10.Strike a balance: it can be difficult to strike a balance between your work and personal relationships. Working with friends or family can be challenging because they will communicate with you in a different manner to another co-worker. Being too friendly at work can convey a lack of professionalism and can result in your work colleagues not taking you seriously. Your demeanour and deportment at work should be more professional than your personal life.

Ms. Trudy O. Glasgow is a practising attorney at the law firm Trudy O. Glasgow & Associates, a court-appointed mediator and author in Saint Lucia (and has also taught law at University level in the UK)*
This column is for general use only, for advice specifically for your case, please see your lawyer.
Share your thoughts and comments: you are invited to email me at [email protected]

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