How to set healthy personal and professional boundaries

by Apr 9, 2024

Set healthy personal and professional boundaries

Setting healthy personal and professional boundaries is crucial for maintaining your emotional and physical well-being. Healthy boundaries = healthy life. Whether this is in a professional context or within your personal relationships, healthy boundaries are critical, because today the two overlap.

Very often (usually) when someone struggles in one area of their lives it bleeds into the other.

Steps to set healthy personal and professional boundaries

1. Identify what is important to you

This is an important exercise to establish your goals, values, and vision which many decide to skip.  Download our FREE Career Reflections Worksheets. This exercise helps you learn what is important to you, what you stand for, and by implication what you are against.

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In the workplace consider factors such as working hours, communication outside of work, personal space, and workload.

On a personal level, this could include communication style of the people around you, your own time, and physical space, as well as your emotional and physical well-being.

Write those items down.

2. Establish your red lines

When individuals understand what their red lines are it is easier to let people know. This could be around not responding to after-hours emails or taking on other people’s work. In personal relationships, it could be not wanting to take on an unfair share of the invisible workload at home. With friends it could be last-minute cancellations, filling gaps, or covering for them in some other way.

 

healthy personal and professional boundaries

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3. Communicate Clearly

Once you know what is important and what your red lines are, communicate your boundaries clearly to the people in your life who need to know.  It could be your partner, parents, kids,  friends, wider family, colleagues, bosses, and clients. Use assertive and respectful language to express your needs and expectations. You can do this on an ad-hoc basis rather than issuing a one-time mission statement.

Worth a read: 3 career conversations to kick start your career strategy in 2024

For the workplace, this may involve establishing guidelines for communication, such as preferred channels (email, phone calls, etc.), response times, and availability outside regular working hours.

If you haven’t been clear, then the people in your life have no idea when they are crossing your lines.

4. Be Consistent

Consistently adhere to your boundaries once you have established and communicated them. This helps others understand that you are serious about maintaining them. If you flip-flop and are inconsistent you will develop a reputation as someone who caves in if the pressure is persistent. And people will be persistent to get their way.

Don’t be that person.

5. Learn to Say No

Don’t be afraid to say no when a request or task exceeds your boundaries or capabilities. Offer alternative solutions if possible, but remain firm in your decision.

 

 

6. Manage your time

Use your new healthy boundaries to prioritise your tasks and allocate time for work, breaks, and personal activities. Avoid overcommitting yourself and delegate (even within the family), outsource, and share tasks when necessary. Or you can simply decline whether it’s a personal invitation or a professional demand.

Set aside time for yourself with activities outside of work that are important to you, whether it’s exercising, or spending time with friends or your partner and family. Block it off on your calendar and stick to it.

7. Respect the boundaries of others

Just as you expect others to respect your boundaries, respect the boundaries of your colleagues and clients. Avoid making unreasonable demands or intruding on their personal space.

8. Get support

If any of this is overly challenging and you are having difficulty setting healthy personal and professional boundaries, or if someone consistently disregards them, seek support. This can be within your organisation, HR, a mentor or your boss. In a personal relationship, it could be a counsellor or relationship coach. Quite often the inability to set boundaries can be rooted in deep seated expectations and beliefs engrained when you were young around acceptance, recognition, approval and a need to be liked.

Many people think setting boundaries means being unapproachable or inflexible. It’s not. It’s about establishing a framework that allows you to live and work effectively while maintaining your well-being, relationships, and professional self.

 

Contact 3Plus International if you need coaching or advice on workplace boundaries

 

 

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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