How To Set Healthy Boundaries At Work Without Feeling Guilty

Learning to say ‘no’ at your workplace is difficult. Here’s your complete guide on how to set boundaries at work without getting fired or feeling guilty. 

how to set boundaries at work

If you find yourself reviewing workplace documents and presentations in the restroom, sending emails while spending time with your kids, or frequently saying, “Hey, I need to reply to this Slack message” while you’re on vacation, you urgently need to learn how to set healthy boundaries at work. 

Most conversations about setting personal boundaries at work point toward one thing—it’s truly one of the best things for your professional life and mental health. Setting boundaries in the workplace allows you to save time and energy while maximizing your productivity

It seems like such a straightforward solution, right?

But ask any employee who has tried to figure out how to set boundaries at work, and you’ll know it’s not that simple. 

Saying yes to almost everything at your workplace sounds tempting. You almost feel obligated to say yes to staying late, taking up extra work, or doing things you aren’t necessarily comfortable with.

According to a survey published by Udemy, boundaries are regularly pushed, played around with, and crossed in workplaces. An astounding 59% of managers felt pressured to work during their break time. 66% of employees reported being harassed or bullied at their workplace.

As per the latest Work in America survey, 19% of people report their workplace being toxic, whereas 22% of employees feel that their mental health was harmed due to work pressure and stress. 

All these numbers point toward one story – learning how to set boundaries at work is tough. But we’re happy to report that it’s pretty doable with a little more assertiveness and pragmatism. To help you get started, we have compiled a complete guide on how to set healthy boundaries at work without feeling guilty or getting fired. Let’s dive in.

How To Set Boundaries At Work?

how to set boundaries at work

1. Check in with your personal boundaries. 

One of the first tips on how to set work-life boundaries is to figure out whether you’re crossing your personal boundaries while contemplating your professional ones. With so many of us working in a hybrid mode or from home, employees are constantly expected to be on to make up for their physical absence. Therefore, if you’re constantly feeling sad about not giving your best, you need to sit and re-evaluate your goals.

Additionally, while working from home, employees, especially women, struggle to balance their domestic chores and work. This idea of being spread too thin and not having enough time to rest is one of the biggest red flags when it comes to learning how to create boundaries at work.

Therefore, before setting work-life boundaries, it’s good to listen to your physical and mental self. They are pretty good indicators of whether you’re asking too much of yourself. 

2. Figure out your boundaries. 

What is non-negotiable in the workplace? What ticks you off about your work environment? Do you like having personal discussions at work? Are you worried about being drawn into tasks that don’t concern you, bending the rules, or being pushed to do something you’re uncomfortable with?

All these questions are incredibly beneficial when you’re trying to figure out how to set boundaries at work. The answers to these will explain what your boundaries actually look like. They will specify what violates your basic ideas of how you’re supposed to be treated in a workplace. 

Therefore, working out what is and isn’t acceptable to you is essential to learning how to set work boundaries. 

3. Communicate clearly. 

Another challenge that most people face when it comes to setting personal boundaries in the workplace is assertiveness. 

Setting work boundaries can be difficult if you struggle with effectively communicating them to others. When you engage in direct and assertive communication, you not only draw the necessary lines but also start working through the multiple layers of communication that people need before they fully understand your boundaries. 

4. Accept that you aren’t here to please everyone.

In the late 1970s, Ricky Nelson wrote a song about pleasing people called ‘Garden Party.’ It went like this – “I learned my lesson well. You see, you can’t please everyone. So you got to please yourself.” 

Well, cheers Ricky! You really made a point there.

It’s impossible to please everyone, no matter how much effort you put in. And it’s not about you; it’s about them. It’s about their bad work day, their fight with their significant other, or their terrible coffee in the morning. 

So, being nice is good. It’s great. But in the end, you have to accept that you will not be able to please everyone. So, if you think being a people pleaser and putting your well-being on the line will help you be the best person at your workplace, think again.

Therefore, if you really want to learn how to set boundaries with your coworkers, you need to be realistic and pragmatic about your situation. Do not put your productivity, well-being, and mental health on the line for anyone’s sake. 

5. Learn to spot the signs of a toxic workplace. 

It usually starts with frustration. While setting boundaries work-life boundaries, most people struggle to pinpoint where exactly they need to build them. But most of them would be able to spot how they feel. 

If you look closely, you might notice that you fluctuate between bouts of feeling overwhelmed due to your work, but you don’t pay enough attention to spot the pattern

So, start being conscious about how you feel about things at your workplace. If you start feeling uncomfortable in the presence of a coworker, pay attention to that. If your blood pressure spikes up when you’re asked to participate in an unnecessary team meeting, take notes. 

This stress and anxiety can function like an alarm bell when you’re trying to learn how to set boundaries at work. These feelings are indicators that a boundary might be required in these situations. 

6. Be vocal about your needs. 

Employees who consciously decide to log out after working hours clearly communicate that they will not take up work calls or messages after that time. The best thing you can do while learning how to set work-life boundaries is not to stay quiet. 

Speaking to your manager, communicating your needs, and voicing your concerns can be the best thing you can do to set personal boundaries in the workplace. These discussions set up a chain of accountability. It builds a sense of equity and trust in the company culture that suits you as well as the interests of the organization. 

7. Apply your energy strategically.  

Your contribution to your workplace is the only thing that matters. And it goes without saying that we live in extremely competitive times. There is a persistent lack of good opportunities; therefore, your performance makes all the difference in how the company values you. 

While it’s important to go above and beyond to reach your professional goals, it’s also essential not to jeopardize your well-being while doing that. Make sure you’re devoting your energy to the high-impact areas. Focus on the goals that align with your expectations and values. This will help you stand out and provide value to the organization as well. 

8. Understand that it’s okay to say ‘no.’ 

While setting personal boundaries in the workplace, saying a ‘no’ can feel extremely daunting. Therefore, always offer reasons for why you’re saying no and offer alternatives. For instance, if your manager pushes for a strict deadline that clashes with your vacation, explain why you can’t fulfill the obligation. Additionally, also push for an alternative deadline that’s feasible for you. 

The word ‘no’ in itself is a full sentence. And you shouldn’t provide reasons for needing a break. But giving valid reasons always helps the cause. 

9. Protect your downtime. 

This is one of the best tips we can give you when it comes to learning how to set boundaries at work: always protect your downtime

It’s pretty tempting to always stay connected and always be on the lookout for new opportunities. However, research has shown that the best way to be successful and healthy is to prioritize your work and downtime equally. 

Rest is essential for overall well-being. It helps rejuvenate your mind and body, integrate your cognitive skills, and better equip you to deal with work-related stress.

Conclusion:

Learning how to set boundaries at work is an essential part of your overall well-being. It’s not just about taking a stand for the number of work hours or the responsibilities you are assigned. It’s about prioritizing your well-being and resisting a culture that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and stressed. 

If you’re unsure about setting personal boundaries at work or are too overwhelmed to cope with work-related stress, getting professional help can be highly beneficial. 

Access to professional help is now easier than ever with the advent of online therapy platforms. To learn about the most affordable online therapy platforms, click here.

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