Be Clear about Your Work Boundaries

Before you answer that 2 am text, think: is this what you want, to be available 24/7? Remember you can set some boundaries at work. Ask Margaret.

Is this you? You start working for somebody new and you want to make a good impression. Maybe you start carrying your smartphone with you everywhere and you answer them all night and all weekend.  Every time they send you something, you answer them whether or not you are on call.

As time goes by you find that you are becoming annoyed by the people you work with. What is up with them? They call you or text you all hours of the day and night. When you do not answer right away they keep sending you message after message. You find yourself becoming ever more irritable. Is it unreasonable to want just a few hours to yourself?

Whose fault is this?  It’s your fault, isn’t it?  You were so eager to make a good
first impression that you forgot that setting expectations is a two-way street.
You have now set an expectation that you are available 24/7.  You didn’t necessarily ask for it.  But you did demonstrate willingness to respond to work-related communications all night and all weekend.

When you are working with someone new or you are on a new project of course you like to put forward a good first impression.  But sometimes you put forth a Herculean effort. In other words, you work so hard and you really kill yourself to put forward that good first impression. You're doing something that you really don’t want to do on a regular basis.  Then you get burned out.  You might become resentful. Perhaps you even start feeling like a victim or a martyr. It is really your fault; you made the decision to violate your own boundaries.

Be honest about your boundaries.  If Sunday is family day, then Sunday is family day.  Don’t accept a job where somebody sits you down and tells you we work
tons of overtime every weekend. Of course use some discretion.  If your boss
sends you something and it's obviously important and urgent and it’s red and
it's flashing and all that, pay attention. But not every person who works over the weekend expects you to do the same thing. 

If I'm your new manager, director, vice-president, project manager, team lead,
supervisor, whatever and I see you working long hours, I might just assume
that's how you work.  I might assume you live for work.  I'm going to take it for
granted; I’m going to expect this from you all of the time. It doesn’t mean
necessarily I'm going to reward your behavior. I may or I may not. 

In your haste to set a good first impression don’t do something that you're not willing to do on a regular basis. Know what you want, represent yourself as who you really are, be clear about how you would like to be treated and be honest about what does or does not work for you.  

If you have a question about the human side of the workplace, just ask Margaret by sending your questions to Ask@MargaretMeloni.com.



This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Robin Wethe Altman March 17, 2012 at 03:13 PM
As I read your blog Margaret, I thought to myself how this same advice is good for any relationship. These principles are important in a marriage too. Sometimes its easy to slip into thinking that if "the other" is unhappy, it MUST be I'm not good enough! All too often its simply a matter of having a boss or partner that can't be satisfied and they'd like nothing better than to believe that its all your fault. I was a "pleaser" too and it took a lot of pain before I woke up to the fact that I was hurting myself. I still do it now and then! Thank you for reminding me!
Margaret Meloni March 17, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Robin, I could not agree with you more. Thank you so much.
Margaret Meloni March 17, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Erik, I am glad you brought the term 'energy vampires' into the discussion. It is so appropriate.
Shripathi Kamath March 17, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Good advice. Otherwise you end up working in a place where, if you are late for work on a Saturday, you are told to not even bother showing up for work on Sunday!
Dan Avery March 19, 2012 at 12:39 AM
Shri, My younger brother interviewed at Fallon, MaGilleget(sp), and Rice back in the 80's and Fallon actually told him "If you won't come in on Saturday, don't bother showing up on Sunday in the interview.


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