Setting Boundaries as Leaders and Employees

Published: Friday, August 19, 2016

Do you know a leader who says yes to everything?  Their team just finished a significant and stressful month to get an “urgent” marketing experience out the door and the leader agreed to deliver something else urgent on a compressed timeline.  Where was the boundary between the finish and start of the next project.  It never materialized.  Take a more concrete example.  Do you ever block time off on your calendar to get work done and people just schedule right over that without any care or thought?  Is it ok to get a meeting scheduled for the same day? As leaders, we have a responsibility to set boundaries to protect our team and as employees we have a responsibility to protect ourselves.

How leaders can set boundaries

  • Know when to stop asking your employees to do work when they are over capacity.  As a leader you should stretch your employees work load, but you have to know when they can no longer sustain.
  • Use your strategic vision and mission to evaluate work before taking it on.  When you have a clear focus, your employees will too.
  • Build in buffer time.  If your individuals are always working towards the next deliverable, you are missing out if you don’t give them time to innovate.
  • Set a clear finish line for your projects and celebrate the wins.  We all know of the project that goes on forever without an end in sight. Don’t own that project are even set some milestones that can show accomplishment.

How employees can set boundaries

  •  When you say yes to work, it is ok to come back and set boundaries of the scope of work. Some great advice from a mentor:

If someone in authority asks you to do something which is not harmful to you or others, the answer is always “yes” at that moment.  You can qualify that yes at a later date.

  • Guard your time wisely.  Don’t let people overrun your calendar and schedule enough time to get your work done.
  • There  is always more work that can be done in a day.  So set time boundaries of when you are working and when you are off.  It may mean you have to turn your cell phone off in the evenings or remove the mail application from your start screen (I did this and am loving not seeing notifications).

It is vitally important as we start to stray over our boundaries, that our Spidey-sense wakes up. We need to let someone know who will be accountable for pulling us in when we knowingly move over a boundary line as we stretch. I think that is important as we learn and grow to expand our boundaries and horizons in a healthy way. Also, we should be smart on which boundaries we are trying to expand vs. being uncaring. Those boundaries to expand should be based upon our values and principles.