Do you take that client call when you’re at dinner with your spouse or your friends? Are you allowing a co-worker to dump their responsibilities on you? Are you taking enough time away from work for ‘you time?’ In this week’s podcast, we’re talking about your self-worth and how to set healthy boundaries.
It’s not always easy to do but take a listen and join us in setting a healthy boundary for yourself this week!
[AF]: Audrea Fink
[JH]: Julie Holton
[KJ]: Kathryn Janicek
[00:00:00] [AF] Do you take that client call when you’re at dinner with your spouse or your friends? Are you allowing a co-worker to dump their responsibilities on you? Are you taking enough time away from work for ‘you time?’ Today we’re talking about your self-worth and how to set healthy boundaries.
[00:00:48] [AF] This is Audrea. Hi there. And today Julie, Kathryn, and I are talking about setting healthy boundaries. Setting healthy boundaries is an extension-well maybe it’s more a natural outcome-of having a high self-worth.
[00:01:02] [JH] Boundaries are so important.
[00:01:04] [KJ] Oh my God yeah. If you don’t have them, right, someone’s going to take advantage of you; full advantage of you. You know it could be work, your co-workers, your boss; it could be even, you know, like, a boyfriend, girlfriend, your parents, or friends. You know, anyone can just walk all over you.
[00:01:21] [AF] But when you know what you’re worth, you’re generally able to set those boundaries better, right? You can be clear about what is acceptable behavior for you. You can be really clear about how you like to be treated and how you like to be spoken to; what’s maybe an effective way for communication for you. And when that boundary is crossed, you’re going to be more comfortable speaking up about it. And it doesn’t have to be confrontational, right? You’re just going to be more comfortable talking about it. You won’t need that external validation to prove your value, because you have that sort of internal compass that tells you what’s right and what’s wrong.
[00:01:56] [JH] Inc. had a really great article on How Successful People Set Boundaries At Work.. Let’s talk about work first. This article- and we’ll put a link in the comments for everyone to read along- but this article talks about four tips for maintaining healthy boundaries. The first tip is to identify your limits. So identifying where those boundaries are and making sure that you’re communicating them. And as an example, as a business owner, something that comes up all the time for me is office hours. You know just because I work 24/7 doesn’t mean that I’m available to my clients or even to my staff 24/7. And that’s something that I addressed recently with my staff because I was getting e-mails and phone calls and text messages at all hours of the day and night and at some point I was going to burn out because I did not get a break from my staff or from our clients. And so I realized very quickly that it wasn’t their fault. I hadn’t been setting those boundaries with my staff, I hadn’t let them know like, “Hey guys I work from you know eight to six. And after that if something’s on fire, text me or call me, but otherwise shoot me an email and I’ll get back to you when I can.” And so that fell on me, I needed to identify those moments before I could expect them to be able to stay within those boundaries.
[00:03:16] [AF] Awesome. So the second point in this article is pay attention to your feelings. And I really- this point resonated with me because it’s one of the strongest ways to really tell whether you’ve bumped up against a boundary that maybe even you didn’t know about or you didn’t communicate clearly. So if you feel strong feelings of guilt or resentment, or someone asks you to participate in something or do something and you just sort of have that initial emotional trigger, you’re probably hitting a boundary, whether it’s that they’re asking the wrong person, it’s not your job persay, or they’re asking you to do something you’re not comfortable with. And so really paying attention to your feelings will help solidify where those boundaries are for you.
[00:04:01] [KJ] That’s good. That’s really good. You know here’s another one. Give yourself permission to set the boundaries. I was coaching someone two weeks ago and her biggest issue at work is where people expect her-she works in the TV business and she is expected to just stick around in case there’s breaking news. And it’s a weekend thing where she has to stick around until the next person comes in because they need to cover a newsroom. You guys watch the news like there needs to be coverage in case there’s breaking news. But they’re not setting a boundary, they’re not saying it could be told 2 o’clock or new or 11:00a.m. They’re just saying you know please make sure you stick around during the day in case there’s breaking news and she says, “Like my whole Sunday is burnt, like I’m working ten or eleven hours on a Saturday or Sunday and that’s- it’s not really fair, when someone, you know, the other producer’s working like eight hours.” And I told her, I said, “Ask them, via e-mail, say what time is that? What time would you like me to stick around till? You know, what is that time?” And then explain why, say, “If I stay till two, you’re having me work twelve hours. Is that what you’re asking me to do?” And really spell that out. So setting boundaries and giving yourself permission to do that because you know your boss would do the same to their boss. Correct? I mean that’s a healthy self-worth.
[00:05:22] [JH] Consider your environment. That really brings us right into our fourth point. Because, how you act with your co-workers or your boss is really going to be different from how you set those same boundaries in your social circle or with your family. So for instance when you get that midnight phone call from a drunk friend who’s out at the bar on a weeknight, you’re going to respond and set those boundaries a little bit differently than you might if that’s your boss calling you at midnight. So just consideringm are these close friendships? Is it more challenging for you because it is your boss and your environment can either support you setting boundaries, make it easier for you, or it can make it more challenging. So definitely consider your environment.
[00:06:02] [AF] That’s a great point, Julie, because you also might find that your boundaries change from person to person. So for me with my family and my close friends, I don’t have a very big like personal bubble, right? When I am in the work environment, though, do not touch me. We are co-workers. We are professional. There is a- there’s a big- there’s a big disconnect in that and it’s important to know, because it doesn’t make the boundary any less real or valid, it just means you have different expectations in different places.
[00:06:31] [AF] So let’s go a few real life boundaries that we’ve let slide in our professional or personal lives and use them as examples to then talk about healthy alternatives for that. Kathryn, why don’t you kick it off?
[00:06:44] [KJ] All right. I have one but agina, I am not the poster child for healthy boundaries. Really, my first probably 18 years of my career, I did not set them and I definitely let everyone take advantage of me. But I let that happen. That was absolutely my fault. And I look back now and those 14 hour days really could have been nine hour days and I would have been respected a lot more. So I’m going to give you this quick story about when I was in my 20s, late 20s. I had a very late night call from a boss, and he called me six or seven times. Now I was supposed to be at work at like 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning but he started calling me at like 9:00 o’clock at night. And so it was many, many hours before I should have been awake and at work and he was calling me because of this bus crash in the city I was working in and I was the morning executive producer. So it’s- imagine you getting a phone call at midnight, you know, seven or eight hours before you’re going to be awake, about something that really truly could have waited until 10 o’clock or 11:00 o’clock. It was happening right then and there. He wanted to call me to talk about how I was going to handle the morning show many, many hours later. So I- it was one night where I had not slept in many, many days, or not slept a normal shift in many days. So I put the phone somewhere else; missed the calls. I was trying to set a healthy boundary, missed the calls, and I got in so much trouble. So this kind comes from an environment, like in that environment, I got in trouble. But, I should have then had a conversation with him instead of me saying, “I’m so so sorry for missing the call.” At that moment, this would have been a great time for me to set a healthy boundary and actually say, “Here, you know, please understand, I am going to bed at like 5 o’clock at night, I wake up at 1:00 in the morning. If you want to call me at ten or eleven, then we can talk about it,” or just trying to come up with something explaining my sleep hours for someone who probably doesn’t understand those crazy overnight hours because they get up at 6:00 in the morning. So they don’t understand it. And I should have explained like, “Here’s here’s what we could do the next time,” and talk it out instead of being so apologetic, which I was; apologizing for something that he really should have handled better.
[00:08:57] [JH] But that’s such a great point too that these boundaries should be happening with our bosses as well. It’s not just with someone who’s at our level or below our level. It’s with everyone around us and our bosses have to have that sense, that respect for us as well. And so it might be a little more delicate. It might be a little more challenging. It certainly is. But we still have every right to be setting those boundaries with their bosses. And with our clients as well. So you know talking about setting boundaries when we’re faced with an impossibly tight deadline or a last second request I know I get them all the time from clients and I do my very best to, you know, meet every request that I get and try to fit every deadline. I understand that sometimes things pop up for me, things come up for clients and we’re going to do everything we can to meet that but it never fails that there’s always the one client that everything’s impossibly tight or everything’s last second and you really have to figure out how to finesse that relationship to sometimes say no. And I think for me it’s not just about the mental health and protecting my own sanity and that of my team. It’s also about protecting the work quality that we’re putting out there because when we are on those tight deadlines or something’s coming in last minute especially when you don’t have you don’t really have time. We talked about that, like saying yes to something when you don’t really have time because you’re just trying to meet that deadline for someone. What happens? We end up with work quality that isn’t- you know it’s subpar. It’s not where we would want it to be. And the more we get into the habit of not setting those boundaries and having subpar work, the more it’s going to come back to hurt us, in addition to our client that we’re trying to help in the first place. So I think when it comes to those deadlines and last second requests, it’s really important to set boundaries.
[00:10:53] [KJ] Totally totally. That was great.
[00:10:54] [AF] You know what are the things that happens, I think, in a work environment, is, especially when you’re working on a team, is that you sometimes have overlap in what your responsibilities are. So one of the things I’ve experienced is you know you have a co-worker who will ask you to do their job or do their work or take care of their responsibility. And it’s not really set up in a way that you can say no right. For example I’ve been on a call with a client at a previous job and I was the account manager sales person. And then there was tech technical person on the call. And the technical person kept saying, “This is how we solve this: Audrea can handle this for you. Audrea can handle this for you,” and kept fielding me all of the responsibilities that were essentially the technical person. Now if you know me, you know that technology is not my strength. And so assigning technological tasks to Audrea is essentially going to equal poor work quality, but you know in that moment with a client on the phone, you can’t clearly say, “Actually, you know,” well I don’t know, John, we’ll call him John, “John that’s your job.” So you know, I think it’s important then when you’re looking at that to think about what can you do in the moment on client call; you save face and then maybe you end up being the voice that communicates the message. But I’ve really had to sit there and smile and nod and say yes, you know I will take that on, because there was a client and it’s not appropriate to argue over who’s role is what. But then once that call was over, you know, had to have a little come to Jesus conversation about whose job is this and you know why is this appropriate for you to be assigning work that is technical to someone who is the relationship person. So I think you know we all struggle with these things right? So I think it’s important to also talk about how you respond when those boundaries are crossed.
[00:12:45] [JH] In show of hands how many of us have been given more work because we’re good at getting it done? And even if that work belongs to someone else, or it’s a part of their job responsibilities, but because they’re unreliable and we’re reliable- I mean everyone’s raising their hand because that happens. So how do we respond and when that boundary has been crossed? I really think the first thing-and this is not the easiest thing to do-but I think the first thing that we have to do is communicate about it. I mean, Kathryn, you give a really good example of your boss calling you and then getting mad at you when you didn’t answer for all of those hours. But really it was the middle of the night, you know, for you. And so if you had that to do over again you’ve said you would communicate and I think that’s really where we have to start. We have to set those boundaries and communicate that those boundaries exist before we can expect that people are going to stay within the boundary.
[00:13:39] [AF] You also have to consider where the boundary was discussed ahead of time. Did you communicate that this boundary existed and whose responsibility went where? I received an e-mail just today from a colleague of mine who said, “Audrea I don’t believe that the person handling this issue is giving it enough clout. Can you take it over?” And the answer is no. It is their job. They’re doing a good job, right. And there’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing. He misunderstood the timeline; he misunderstood the expectations. And so you know it’s very important to figure out whether those expectations were set; where the boundary was set, and then communicate again where the boundaries are. So I was able to reach out to my colleague who is working on it and say, “I don’t think this person understands their role in this project. And I also don’t think they necessarily understand the timeline and the process. I think it would behoove you-” I didn’t say behooved, “I think it would benefit you to reach back out to this person and explain exactly what you want them to do so that they understand.” And then I reached out to my colleague and said, “So and so will be reaching out to you to explain this further.” But sometimes people cross these boundaries-they just don’t know, right? So you really have tothink about that before you respond. Where’s the intentionality and where is the knowledge base? And you clearly communicate those expectations. So if you go back to Kathryn’s example, you know you took the night off which I think was a healthy boundary, I think you know one of the things in hindsight maybe you could have done, maybe you couldn’t because this is you know this particular circumstance, but, is maybe say, “I won’t have my phone on me for this period of time. So if you call me I won’t be available because I need to sleep,” Maybe that wouldn’t have worked, but you don’t know until you start trying to set those boundaries.
[00:15:39] [KJ] But that all comes with being proactive, right. So if we are proactive we don’t have to explain later how this is a boundary or we don’t have to explain you know, we don’t have to discuss why it might have not been discussed ahead of time. If we have proactive steps if I would have, like you just suggested, which I could go back in time, I would totally talk to that boss. If I could turn back time I would tell him, “Here are the hours that I sleep, and all the newsroom would know that and they would know that I’m going to be asleep just like people sleep from 11:00 o’clock till 5:00a.m. you know. So anyway, clearly as we learned I did not practice-I’m going to say it again- I didn’t practice good boundaries professionally or personally in the first 20 years of my career. I am learning. But it came from-I’m a people pleaser. Like a lot of women, you know, we’re all head nodding here because we tend to do that. But, you know, I’m realizing now that people respect me and they will respect you a lot more if you set boundaries. When I set boundaries they’re like, “oh she’s a very important person.” They see that, they hear that, but also that I respect myself and maybe then I’m going to respect them too because I respect myself, right. So a lot of very, very successful people actually would say-the most successful people-do a couple things. I’m saying this because we all want to be more successful: We need to set boundaries. People book vacation for the year in advance. They say that you know I’m going to be with my family in July or August when school’s out, or I’m going to go do something with my boyfriend in December. They book that vacation in advance. They plan ahead and block it off and let their staffs know that this is time they’re not going to be reachable. They also-it’s little things, little things that we all skip or we tend to like; take a phone call or shove it in there in the time that we’re supposed to be working out, or doing acupuncture, getting our massages-we’re not going to do that anymore. On Sundays when you plan your week ahead and you’re looking at what you have to do for clients, make sure you plan out your workouts and block that out on your calendar. So here’s this challenge for us all: I think if you’re listening right now, you can start with this week. When it comes or on a Saturday and Sunday and you’re looking at your calendar for the week ahead. Block out that Me Time first, and put it in stone. Color it differently. That’s important stuff, right? But also make sure it’s in your work calendar. So it shows up. You don’t have to write ‘Me time’ or something, but just so someone can’t make appointments in your Outlook calendar during that time.
[00:18:23] [AF] And outlook allows you to set it so that it says you know ‘out of office’ and you can set the meeting as private. Google has this opportunity as well. Google Calendar also allows you to do this where you can say, on your calendar, I’m not available, one; two, it’s none of your business what I’m doing; unless it’s your boss then it might be their business-.
[00:18:42] [JH] Nope, set those boundaries.
[00:18:46] [AF] And three, I’m out of office. I’m not reachable at this time. I know I do that when I work out, if I have the gym on my calendar. I’m out of the office. I do it for doctor’s appointments. You know, acupuncture appointments, all that stuff. If I just am leaving early because I’ve worked a full week and I want to take off a little early on a Thursday or Friday. I just mark that I’m out of office. The end. You can also set out of office notifications on your e-mail. So say you’re just out of the office for a short break right? I had a doctor’s appointment this morning. I set my out of office for three hours I was out of office and said I’m not here right now. Again none of your business as to why, but I’m not here. I’m not going to be checking e-mail. I’m not going to be on the phone. If this is urgent you can contact my team. Here’s their contact information. If not, I’ll be in by this time and I’ll be available for you then. Call me or email me then. And those are little ways you can say like this is this boundary. You know this is a little boundary that you can set in your professional life. But there are lots of boundaries you can set in your personal life, in talking to people, how you allow people to talk to you; people will do what you allow. And so it’s really important that you set those boundaries as Kathryn said; self-respect shows through in them. And people assume that if you respect yourself, you’ll respect them.
[00:20:01] [KJ] Absolutely. So we heard the challenge. Please, in the week ahead: nook out your personal time in your schedule. Book it ahead of time and make sure that you’ve set those healthy ways, those healthy boundaries, and also can you please tell us, wherever you’re listening to this, comment in, make sure to tell us you know if you’re doing that. That you’re going to take this challenge and you’re going to book your me time this week, this month, and for the next year. Also tell us some other healthy ways that you set boundaries in the comments section whenever you’re listening to us.
[00:20:33] [JH] Join us as we continue this conversation online ThinkTankofThree.com. We blog there weekly. Subscribe and you’ll get a first alert e-mail as soon as it posts. Then find us on social media, so we can hear about your response to this challenge. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and then be sure to join our private group on Facebook where we can all give and share advice freely. Just look for the group in the community section on our Facebook page. And while you’re there, if you have questions, topics to discuss, send us a message ThinkTankofThree@gmail.com.