Your Boss Doesn’t Care About Your Boundaries at Work (Unless You Care)

tennis ball on the line

In life, respect is one attribute we owe one another; but you can’t force a person to respect you. Setting a boundary defines us; your personal boundaries protect the inner core of your personhood and your right to make a choice; leading you to a sense of ownership and responsibility for your actions.

But what exactly do boundaries mean? Boundaries are limits defining your relationship with something or someone and it can be physically tangible or emotionally intangible. Setting boundaries at work aids you to be more efficient, productive, and emotionally well. Without boundaries and clearly defined priorities, your on-the-job performance can suffer.

Why You Need to Set Boundaries at Work

  • Boundaries help everyone feel psychologically and emotionally safe (happy) and be more productive. It is an essential component of job satisfaction and helps to maintain good social dynamics in our workplaces.
  • Clearly defined boundaries regarding communication in a workplace, such as prohibiting inappropriate language or verbal abuse, helps to keep the work environment professional which improves interactions.
  • It discourages inappropriate requests from managers and team members where your personal values and priorities are disregarded.

What to Expect When You Lack a Healthy Boundary

Without professional boundaries; most times we get offended, overworked and feel disrespected and unappreciated.

The fewer boundaries you set, the more you give others a signal that you don’t know how to take care of yourself and your relationships tend to be more difficult or dramatic.

Without healthy boundaries, you can end up spending so much of your life doing what others want you to do and not what you want to do.

Most people without boundaries tend to go along with other people’s plans or worry about letting other people down to the extent they just say yes when the answer is a no.

How to Set a Healthy Boundary

Identify Your Limits

The first stage in setting up your boundary is understanding what is valuable and a priority for your life. Your values help clearly set your limits; what you may be willing or easily able to accept. Also, you need to pay attention to yourself on what you can tolerate and what makes you feel uncomfortable. These feelings will help you clarify your limits and they can be emotional, mental, physical, etc. It is helpful if you do not compare your limits with others' limits.

Clearly, Define Your Boundaries

In this process, you need to be vulnerable, truthful, and clear with coworkers and managers about your boundaries. The goal is to secure a healthy relationship with those close to you, balanced by a sense of understanding and mutual support. Don’t, however, try to set all your boundaries at once, it takes time to tweak them in the context of your job role and workplace culture.

Take Up a Boundary Right Away

When a boundary gets violated, say something. Openly, state the ways in which you are seeking to maintain your boundaries, most people are likely unaware of how their actions impact you and will appreciate being told they crossed a line so they can avoid making that same mistake. Do this as soon as possible so it maintains its poignancy and the person violating it understands its importance to you.

Be Ready for Boundary Violation

It’s inevitable that someone will violate your boundaries. Be prepared for this by visualizing a boundary getting crossed and then decide on how to handle that situation.

Here are a few measures you can take when your boundary has been violated:

  • Know that You’re in Charge: If someone is repeatedly violating a boundary and it is impacting you, don’t question the validity of your feelings you’ve got to take charge of the situation.
  • Articulate the Boundary: Before taking steps to handle a violator, you should know clearly the exact boundary that’s violated. Without being able to do so, you won’t be able to communicate effectively with the person about the issue.
  • Inform the Person of the Problem: This is perhaps the most important thing you need, let the person know that their behavior is unacceptable.
  • Be Confident: when communicating about boundaries, you should be firm in setting them. If you’re not firm, those around you won’t take you seriously and they will continue crossing the line.

In Conclusion

Consider the following scenario and you decide who’s at fault. Share your thoughts with me on LinkedIn.

During an Interview:

Hiring Manager: Do you have any problem working on weekends? We work hard but play hard at our company. I’m up at 5 A.M. on Sundays putting in office time.

Job Candidate: No, I don’t.

The job candidate becomes the new hire. And the hiring manager has the expectation that the new hire will work weekends.

But, the new hire has 9-year-old twin daughters that are great soccer players and more often than not, the girls have either soccer matches or practice on Saturdays and Sundays.

Attending every game and practice for the new hire is a part of his value system of being the best father her can), but now he's in conflict with his manager and team because he is not working on the weekends.

Who’s to blame?


Thomas Harrell’s tagline for the learning function at Master Electronics is “Helping you. Learn. Grow. Master!” His responsibilities include learning content design, creation, delivery, LMS administration, and learning & development strategy, as Talent Development Specialist reporting to the company President. He loves making relevant professional connections, you can find him on LinkedIn.