At a recent Learning Circle, some women in the group commented that they were having difficulty establishing personal boundaries in their work relationships. It seems that the border between professional and personal relationships can be a hard one to patrol, particularly when we spend so much of our week at work. The prospect of setting boundaries often comes encumbered with a sense of formality, but essentially it’s about assertive communication and preserving integrity – integrity of work, self and others.

A simple model for setting boundaries:

  1. Make ‘I’ statements –  “I felt frustrated when you spoke over the top of me in our meeting”
  2. Ask for your boundaries to be respected – “You need to let me finish my point before launching into yours.”
  3. Gain commitment –Relationships are more harmonious when people know what to expect and what is expected of them. “In the future we need to communicate in a respectful manner. I expect you to respect my perspective and I will do the same of you”
  4. Follow-through – Actions speak louder than words. It’s important we make a conscious effort to maintain the boundaries we set with our co-workers and model the behaviour we wish to see in others.
  5. Above all else, don’t take boundary breaches personally. We can’t take responsibility for the manner in which other people communicate. In the wise words of Eleanor Roosevelt  – No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Jules