How to get your boss to respect your boundaries

Are you working for someone who expects you to be available 24/7?

Do they give you assignments with a due date of yesterday?

Does it seem like you're living in the movie Office Space?

You're not alone, most people can relate.

Work boundaries can be challenging to set up and maintain.

It's the scarcity mindset that gets to us about work boundaries.

We think thoughts like:

  • If I'm not available 24/7, I won't get promoted.

  • I could get fired if I don't answer my boss immediately.

  • I can't afford to lose this job, so I'll do anything.

Those thoughts lead to feelings of fear. Then we take actions we don't actually want to take, like keeping our work email open 24/7.

We cut back on time with family and friends so we can be more available. We throw our boundaries right out the window when we're afraid.

Let's change that mindset step by step.

1. What do you want your boundaries to be?

Sit down and write out the list. Don't just think about it. Write out the actual list. Imagine an ideal day, leaving your boss out of it. Make it a list of things you can control.

Ideas:

  • I want to not be available for work between 7pm-7am.

  • I want to check my work email once after 5pm.

  • I want to be present and engaged at family events.

  • I want to avoid distractions at work so I can focus on work tasks during designated times.

  • I want to schedule weekends when I'm completely unplugged.

2. What actions do you have to take to make your list happen?

Here's where you can involve your boss. You can tell them directly about your new boundary. Some bosses might even be willing to help you set it up.

If you don't think that will go over well, boundaries are still all within your control. You have to create the consequences.

Boundary statements are If _________, then _______:

  • If my boss emails me at 8pm, I answer it by 12pm the next day.

  • If my boss texts me during dinner, I do not respond until after dinner.

  • If my boss asks me to work on a weekend project at the last minute, I reply that I am unavailable until Monday morning.

  • If my boss says I must be available, I set parameters around the timeline of actual work.

  • If my boss yells at me, I do not respond until everyone is calm.

3. How do you have to feel to take those actions?

Positive feelings will help you have a productive conversation with your boss. Feelings like confident, determined, and optimistic.

This concept ties back to the scarcity mindset. When you feel miserable and scared about boundaries, you don't take productive action. That's true for all of us. We ended up without boundaries because we felt scared.

Feeling confident helps us take positive action forward with our boss. We're able to keep our boundaries when we come from an abundant place rather than a scarcity mindset.

4. What thoughts do you have to choose to feel confident?

Confidence doesn't appear out of thin air. It comes from our thoughts.

Thoughts like:

  • I know I can set up healthy boundaries.

  • I'm developing my boundary setting abilities.

  • It takes practice and this is the perfect opportunity to practice.

  • I can successfully navigate this boundary with my boss.

  • I am a valuable worker and boundaries are important.

Find a thought that works for you. Remember, the thought has to generate confidence or optimism. Then you'll take the positive actions of moving forward with your boundary setting.

5. Stick to your protocol.

Once you establish boundaries and create a schedule for yourself, stick with it. See what works and what doesn't. Make adjustments, but make them 24 hours in advance.

The key is not to react in the moment with a new protocol. If your boss sends you a panic text message and your emotions take over, you'll respond. Instead, allow the urge to respond to exist. Stick to your protocol. Remind yourself why you're doing this.

Looking for more information about boundary setting at work?

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Need help establishing your own work boundary protocol?

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