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April 9, 2024, by lqyhs14

Empowerment through professional boundaries

By Hemakshi Soni, sociology and social policy student – © via Unsplash by Brooke Cagle

Starting a new job can be a daunting experience but learning how to protect yourself and set boundaries can help you navigate challenging situations, prioritise your wellbeing as well as maintain professionalism and respectfulness. Professional boundaries include physical, emotional, spiritual and more. I’ll be looking into a few boundaries below.

1. Navigating a healthy work/life balance

Although we might want to make a good impression by being ambitious, overcommitting can lead to burnout and producing work that is rushed or of poor quality. Understanding your limitations and knowing when to say ‘no’ is essential. Learning to prioritise your well-being can be difficult but here are some examples of phrases to help you assertively communicate your boundaries:

“I’m juggling a heavy workload right now and I would like to discuss taking (name of task/project) off my plate as I am confident that I could place more attention on (description of priority task)”

2. Being asked to extend your schedule

It can feel uncomfortable to be assertive on your personal schedule and priorities, it is so important to make sure you can communicate what you are comfortable with. These phrases may be helpful to use when asked to stay late or work on days off:

“Thank you for considering me for this task, however, due to personal commitments I won’t be able to stay late today.”

“Thank you for entrusting me with this task, I will ensure this gets completed first thing tomorrow morning as I have personal commitments after work hours.”

3. Spiritual or religious boundaries 

Religious, spiritual or cultural boundaries are essential in your place of work, these boundaries protect the right to believe what you want. It can feel uncomfortable asking your manager for flexible working, time out of the working day for prayer, annual leave for a religious or cultural holiday or something else that you value. Here is how I would approach the situation:

“I am writing to request time off on [dates] for [name of cultural event or holiday]. This is an important cultural event for me, and I would be grateful for your understanding and support in granting me this time off. If there are any specific tasks or deadlines, please let me know, and I will ensure they are addressed before my time off.”

General advice

Setting professional boundaries can be difficult, however, this is essential for a healthy work environment. These are some important things to remember:

  • Be direct and assertive whilst still being respectful and polite
  • Propose alternative solutions where possible, such as making up lost hours on another day or finding a co-worker to cover your time off
  • You should be familiarised with the company policy on overtime, holidays and more.
  • Maintain records of written communications such as emails regarding work issues for documentation purposes.

Whether it’s a full-time job, part-time job, temporary job, it is essential you establish professional boundaries with your organisation and colleagues. Visit the ‘Navigating the workplace’ webpage for more information and advice.

Posted in Career wellbeing