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5 Ways to Earn Respect by Setting Boundaries

Posted May 7, 2014 by Ali Lawrence in On the Ladder
One of the biggest mistakes female employees, at all stages of their careers, make is by thinking that they need to say “yes” to every project or request. Then, when they become the “go to” person who is expected to come in early, stay late, work on the weekend or put in extra time for no additional perks, they complain. What they don’t always realize until too late is that setting boundaries on the job earns respect professionally and personally.

This isn’t about physical boundaries, but about work-related boundaries. No woman is a superhero, nor should she be treated as one. However, if you’ve been bending over backwards for your boss and colleagues, you’re putting yourself in a situation that could quickly lead to psychological burnout. Besides, at some point, all those plates you’re spinning in the air are going to fall, and you’ll be the one to blame.

The trick to setting up boundaries is to do it from day one at your job, or at least from today going forward.  As you proceed, people around you will begin to see how far they can push before you push back. In essence, you’ll show them how to treat you.

Some key phrases you’ll want to keep in your proverbial back pocket for times when you need to assert your professional boundaries include:

  1. If your boss tells you to work late on a certain night and it’s an unusual request, tell him or her that you need to check your calendar first. Don’t immediately say “yes” and then juggle your scheduled items. If you do decide to work late, ask for time off the next morning, or at a specific time during the next week to compensate.
  1. If your colleague gives you a project and says you should do it “because you’re better at it than she is,” don’t just accept it. While you might indeed be a better employee, you have your own work to accomplish. Ask if she has run the project switch through the boss. This way, if you do it you’ll be the one to get the credit.  Otherwise, she could just pass it off as her own work.
  1. If you are told by your boss that you have to fire or discipline someone who is not under your direct supervision, say that you do not have the authority or training to do so. Sometimes your boss just wants to pass the buck, and you’re doing her dirty work. If you get a lot of push-back from the boss, contact your human resources department representative.
  1. If you are expected to take business calls during your “off duty” hours, make sure you are getting compensated for the time in some way. For instance, you may be able to negotiate a more flexible schedule so you can spend time with family, or you may be able to earn extra money or paid-time-off. Some companies are open to non-monetary perks, but you have to ask to find out.
  1. If you are told to do something that contradicts your personal values, say no and then come up with a better solution. Even if you have said yes in the past, don’t do it. Your gut instincts should be followed to the letter.  Many people have ended up at the wrong end of a legal battle because they were “just following orders.” When you do say no, it’s important to have a better solution to offer that you would be willing to do and that could accomplish similar results.

By delineating your boundaries with your employer and teammates, you’ll run less risk of feeling as though you’re not being taken seriously. Just remember to always be respectful to your coworkers and managers while trying to earn your respect as well.

About the Author

Ali Lawrence

Ali Lawrence is a content specialist for a web design company and blogs about online PR and marketing in her free time at MarCom Land. Her articles have been published by Brazen Careerist, Jobacle, and Business2Community. In her free time, Ali enjoys golfing, cooking healthy meals, and binge watching TV shows.