Imagine this. The CEO of the company you work for calls and pleads with you to stay after you gave notice. Offering you an upgraded phone (that rings 24/7) a newer car, 25% increase in salary and a promotion (that you know you’ll never get because every time they’ve replaced you the person leaves stressed out after 3 months, which leaves you back where you started doing the original job). Yes that was me! I’d met the increasing demands doing the role fit for two consultants. My personal relationship suffered and it nearly broke me. But I realized before it impacted my health that I needed to set clear healthy boundaries.
1. First define your own clear boundaries and let them be known.
· Decide on the number of hours you will work.
· Under what circumstances and conditions you’ll work overtime.
· Know under what circumstances you can or can’t do your best work – what conditions do you need to do your best work? What conditions prevent you from doing your best work?
Why set clear boundaries and let them be known.
· They are an effective way to reduce ambiguity or misinterpretations so everyone knows where they stand.
· People are less likely to cross your boundaries if they know what they are up front.
· Clear boundaries provide a set of guidelines for the way you want people to treat you.
2. Respond and Engage:
· Respond and Engage: Consider why the request is being made, and ask for clarity. eg Tell me more about why you need this done.” Once you understand the intention and motivation you can evaluate the information and engage in meaningful dialogue.
· React: When we are unprepared our natural reaction is to react in the moment from our emotions: “I’m overwhelmed with what I already have to get done” or “I’m really stressed out” or “I have too much to do.” Or from fear of losing your job, demotion, not getting a promotion and therefore react in a way you consider appropriate to avoid loss. This approach often requires you to give up or compromise your values and principles.
Why respond and engage vs. react.
· It allows you to honor your values and principles.
· Gives you more information to make better decisions based on your core values. What is important and meaningful to you?
· It opens the space for negotiation and options when the other person feels heard and understood.
3. Be prepared: practice and get comfortable with different ways to respond. This can make it feel more natural when you need to call on them.
(a) If the request takes higher priority than the work you have been allocated and you are concerned you wont be able to fulfill your original commitments. A response could be “I take my commitments seriously and I appreciate this work takes priority. With the current time constraints I will not be able to get both done on time. What resource’s do you have to support me so I can complete both commitments. Or “ I can make this a priority and that would mean the other work will be two days later than we agreed”
(b) If the unreasonable request is from another department. “I’m fully scheduled “or “I don’t have any extra capacity right now.” “I committed to completing this report for my boss by our deadline of 5pm tomorrow.”
(c) If the request has unreasonable short time frame. “I take the quality of the work seriously and to give this project the attention it will require, I will need two additional days.”
In a nutshell - If our boundaries are unclear, loose or non-existent, how can we expect others to be clear and respectful of what behaviour is acceptable and what is not. We teach people how to treat us by what we tolerate.