Carma’s note: When I first read this article, I was struck by how it could be interpreted in relation to how we keep our relationship to our selves. See my comments sprinkled throughout the article below to understand what I mean.
Blurred lines: Setting healthy boundaries at work
By Van Moody
Success in the workplace depends on your ability to relate effectively to people. Research shows that 60-80% of all difficulties in organizations stem from strained relationships between employees, not from deficits in an individual employee’s skill or motivation. (Association for Psychological Type International, APTI)
Difficult workplace relationships are far more than a nuisance; they can cause anxiety, burnout, clinical depression and even physical illness.
Healthy relationships at work can propel you to great heights of achievement; dysfunctional or toxic ones will tether you to mediocrity. When we mismanage relationships, the fall-out affects productivity and quite possibly our ability to advance. Your success at work depends on your ability to set the kinds of boundaries that encourage mutual respect and keep the focus on productivity.
7 Tale-Tell Signs of a Toxic Relationship
You’re in a toxic professional relationship with a boss or peer when they:
- Stifle your talent and limit your opportunities for advancement
- Twist circumstances and conversations to their benefit
- Chide or punish you for a mistake rather than help you correct it
- Remind you constantly or publicly of a disappointing experience or unmet expectation
- Take credit or withhold recognition for new ideas and extra effort
- Focus solely on meeting their goals and do so at your expense
- Fail to respect your need for personal space and time
Carma’s Note: Do you act any of these ways toward yourself? Have you stifled your own talent? Twisted internal stories to support your lack of living up to your potential? Punished yourself for being human rather than learning from your mistakes? Talked badly about yourself with others? Didn’t own something you did that was special or extraordinary? Focused on other people’s goals at the expense of your own? Not given yourself permission to take time off, relax and enjoy yourself? If you said yes to any of those questions, you’ve exhibited a toxic relationship with yourself.
We all do some of this from time to time, but if you dwell in any of these activities, you need to take a serious look at how you are getting in your own way.
One of the best ways to work with unhealthy people is to set boundaries. Healthy boundaries keep frustration and confusion low. Boundaries remind people of what is acceptable to you and what is reasonable to expect from you. Boundaries prevent unhealthy people from taking up too much of your time, energy, or resources – all precious commodities in the workplace.
Be warned, toxic people don’t like boundaries because they want to shift responsibilities according to their mood or the project. It is important to recognize that toxic people create work environments that mirror their personal environments. They want to operate where they are most comfortable. They will not set the boundaries for you.
Here are 4 ways you can set boundaries:
1. Manage Your Time. Set a limit on the amount of time you spend beyond the hours needed to complete projects. Rigidity douses the flames of collegiality but blurred lines lead to confusion and frustration.
Carma’s Note: Poor time management (something that has challenged me often) is one way that we self-sabotage. Get this under control and you can start to heal many wounds that procrastination, tardiness and not being able to finish what you said you would finish can cause.
2. Express Yourself. Reveal aspects of your personality that will reinforce your values. Sometimes it’s a matter of letting people in a little bit to help keep your boundaries intact.
Carma’s Note: Positive affirmations … stating how you want yourself to be and focusing on that … can really help you heal a toxic relationship with yourself. Cancel negative self-statements and replace them with positive versions.
3. Play Your Part. Everyone plays a role at work: the victim, the brown-noser, the star, the slacker, the go-to guy. Build your reputation, and do it carefully and consistently. It’s important that your coworkers know what you stand for and what to expect from you. Then, don’t waiver.
Carma’s Note: Make a commitment to be your best self in every situation. Build a reputation with yourself for being the best you.
4. Change the Conversation. Working close quarters or long hours sometimes blur the lines. Here are suggested words to say to help you stay focused on the project and away from nonproductive behavior: “Let’s focus on finishing the quarterly projections instead of the latest gossip about the CEO so we can get home early.”
Carma’s Note: When you catch yourself straying from your commitment to yourself, remind yourself to get back on track. Set up simple rewards for doing what you say you will do and simple consequences for not doing it. Make it something that will not take up a lot of your time (or add inches to your waistline), but at the same time something that will motivate you to stay on track.
Bottom line, every relationship you have influences you. There are no neutral relationships; each one lifts you up or weighs you down. They move you forward or hold you back. They help you or they hurt you. When you know how to handle relationships appropriately, it will make the difference between a fulfilling work life or one that is riddled with disappointment, failure, and regret.
About the Author
Field expert Van Moody is the author of The People Factor (an upcoming release by publisher Thomas Nelson) and a motivational speaker who advises on matters related to relationships as they pertain to friends, family, significant others and the workplace. He is a “People Scholar” who helps others build their “Relational IQ” to achieve success at home, in their social circles, and in business. He may be reached online at www.vanmoody.com.