Career

How To Set Boundaries At Work (And Not Get Fired)

By Melody Rose··  7 min read
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Everywhere we turn it feels like someone is dissatisfied with their work life – from being burnt out to dealing with annoying coworkers or making less money than they feel they deserve.

However, sometimes it seems like the dissatisfaction perpetuates because nothing gets addressed and therefore nothing gets resolved. The resentment builds right alongside the silence.

Most of these overarching problems can dissipate rather quickly by setting stronger boundaries. It seems like a simple solution, right? True, however many employees resist speaking up because they fear they may be perceived as “overstepping” authority, which could result in getting fired. Sound familiar?

The stigma around boundary setting comes from the misconception that you have to be harsh, demanding, and cold in order to be heard and get what you want. But the truth is you can set strong boundaries and still be loving, respectful, and poised. It all comes down to delivery. It’s much less about what you’re saying and more about how you’re saying it.

If you’re leaving the office every day with sores on your tongue from biting it so hard, then consider this your permission slip to release the tension. This guide will support you in finally speaking up and alleviating your work woes.

When Coworkers Push Your Hours

Now that we live in an accessible age where our work lives are closely knit to our phones and laptops, powering down can feel like a foreign concept. Not only do we find ourselves giving in to the temptation of checking those midnight emails or Slack messages, but the expectations placed on us can become a bit blurry too. If you’re finding yourself exhausted because coworkers and/or your superiors are contacting you outside office hours with requests, tight deadlines, and quick turnaround times, then it’s time to revisit your contract.

We understand things come up, and sometimes there will be last-minute projects that require immediate attention. However, if it’s becoming habitual then it’s clear it’s also becoming a boundary violation infringing upon your personal or family time. Even so, people feel nervous to address this issue because they believe it’ll look like they aren’t committed to the company, that so-and-so will replace them for the next big promotion, or that they’re not dependable. 

Call for a meeting with your boss or coworker to revisit the hours stated in your contract. 

Instead of grinning and bearing with these requests at the expense of your own sanity, set a boundary. Call for a meeting with your boss or coworker to revisit the hours stated in your contract. Ask if these are still the hours the company wishes to uphold. From here, you can state and pull up records if needed to show that it seems the hours have shifted and you’re curious as to what you should expect moving forward to better plan your outside obligations. Together, you can either adjust your current schedule in a way that works well for all parties or set new plans in place for contact methods outside the stated hours. Given the instantaneous digital world we live in, they may not even realize the extra pressure they’ve been putting on you.

By collaborating on resolving this issue, you show you’re a team player who’s interested in the best practices for the company. You’re showing you’re committed to being involved and operating at your highest level of productivity. Guaranteed you’ll leave the meeting feeling like a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders, which is far better than losing your patience with your coworkers down the line.

When Your Paycheck Isn’t Reflecting Your Work

So you’ve gone above and beyond the standard, your peers are constantly seeking out your expertise, you’re generating lots of new ideas (that are putting money right into your company’s pockets), and yet your paycheck seems to reflect maybe one-third of this astounding effort and quality. Feeling appreciated is a big part of work satisfaction. More often than not this validation is expressed in the form of compensation. It can do a number on your energy levels if you feel your work has exceeded the expectation yet has hardly received any acknowledgment for it. 

Before you decide to just give up and discontinue your strong efforts (which will reflect poorly on you), arrange a meeting with your boss. Approach your request for a raise from a place of facts and passion versus an “I deserve this” attitude. They’re going to want to see the proof as to why they should pay you more. Bring all the recent ideas you had that were accepted, statistics showing how much the company benefited from those ideas, a log of the hours you’ve put in, and so on. By demonstrating how this is in support of the whole company, not just you, you’ll gain your boss’s attention.

Approach your request for a raise from a place of facts and passion versus an “I deserve this” attitude. 

Setting the boundary that you know your worth and respect yourself enough to defend it will earn much admiration from any superior. When your boss sees all of your supporting evidence for your request, they will more than likely want to keep you feeling satisfied (and encouraged to keep producing stellar work) by increasing your pay!

When Your Peers Are Taking Your Ideas without Giving You Any Credit

Nothing will knock the wind out of your sails quite like having a great idea you’re excited about, just to share it with your team and watch them pitch it before you get the chance. Of course, you’re a team player and assume this for the benefit of the company, but after a while, you find that it keeps happening and you’re hesitant to share any ideas at all. You’ve become bitter towards your coworkers and distrusting of them as they eat up the undeserved praise. Overall, you just feel like you’ve been hidden in the shadows of what should have been a spotlight.

While it’s not all about recognition, it is about respect. Bringing up such an accusation with little proof (which is often the case in these scenarios) may make you feel like you’re being petty and leaves you with the weak argument of “he said, she said.” Just like above, you need the facts. 

Share your idea when your superior is present or in an email that goes to your boss and the team.

Take it as a lesson learned, but protect yourself from allowing it to happen again. Moving forward, set an unspoken boundary. Instead of sharing your new ideas with your team first, share it only when your superior is present or in an email thread that goes to both your boss and the team. This way there is no mistaking where the idea originated from. Keep working hard and showing up, putting all negative feelings aside. By staying focused on your own work and success, you’ll avoid the trap of derailing yourself in an effort to prove a point of the past. Let your success speak for itself! It may take time, but once you start being very clear about your ideas and standing in your strengths, it will be hard to not recognize you.

Closing Thoughts

Just like with any boundary, it all comes down to communication. By staying out of the high-emotional allegations and leaning more into the facts, you’ll be able to present your case with a level head and a professional attitude. 

When entering into any conversation, assume that the other person has absolutely no idea how you’re feeling…because more than likely they don’t. They’re busy too and probably haven’t even noticed their abundance of unnecessary demands or oversights. By being prepared and having your records on hand, you can show proof of where you’ve been overextended and where you wish to see change. This will draw clear attention to the issues and help to not only fix them for your situation, but for the company as a whole. A true leader will appreciate you taking the extra steps to find solutions, and you’ll leave feeling a lot less stressed than if you were to stay silent….win-win!

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Seek Truth. Find Beauty.

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