Draw your boundaries – and stick to them

We all should take responsibility for valuing our own boundaries enough to never feel wrong for sticking to them – and for expecting others to respect them too.

For example, have you ever agreed something with a colleague, only for the other person to develop a bad case of amnesia just five minutes later?

You know the kind of thing I’m talking about – you agree shorter working hours around your family commitments and, when you try to leave work at 3pm, it’s to a chorus of the (oh so funny, it just never gets old) “thanks for popping in”, or when you have worked hard all day and stand up to leave on time, you get the feeling that your timely departure has undermined the good work you have done that day.

It’s frustrating to know that when you have done a good job and are delivering what’s expected of you (and often over and above) somehow, it’s you that leaves the office feeling as though you have perhaps done something wrong. Despite proclamations to the opposite effect, a culture of presenteeism still permeates many professions. But, have you ever considered what you have done to challenge this?

Or, do you suffer in silence, go home and moan to your loved ones? Maybe you spend your time at work thinking that if only you could just juggle your commitments even more precariously to stretch your day a little bit more, you could more easily demonstrate your willingness and commitment, and then your problem would go away?

If you answered yes to any of the above then I say you are Wrong – yes that’s wrong with a capital W! Truly, who is going to benefit from that strategy in the long term – you, your boss, your colleagues, your family? Nope, none of you I’m afraid.

Change, and in particular a change of attitude, doesn’t happen overnight. The culture of presenteeism is deeply embedded in our working culture. Unless you have extremely forward thinking colleagues, often you will have to go through a period of ‘training’ the other party: think about when you want to get your pet or small child to start doing or understanding something. Lip service just isn’t enough. You know that there may be a period of standing your ground and reinforcing, but that the benefits will outweigh any initial pain or effort on your part.

So may I suggest that, going forward, you just let go of all the unproductive feelings and instead use your energy to have the confidence to just smile and stick to your agreements until they become the norm to those around you. Really, we all should take responsibility for valuing our own boundaries enough to never feel wrong for sticking to them – and for expecting others to respect them too.

Remember, if someone isn’t happy with you, the onus is on them to bring it to your attention in an open, direct and appropriate manner. And, in all likelihood, most reasonable people would not be unhappy with you as long as you are sticking to your arrangements. Instead, try acting on the basis that they just need your support in accepting change, sticking to agreements and behaving in the right way – so that when you do finish your working day, it ends with a feeling of mutual appreciation for the hard work you have done and for their acceptance of your need for work/life balance.