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First Psychology – How to set boundaries without upsetting your boss

Posted: 3rd December 2021

Juggling a challenging job and workload with your personal life can often be a huge pressure. These days it seems to be the norm to ‘work hard, play hard’, yet this kind of pressure can be doing long-term damage to your health.

So when you’re just about keeping your head above water and suddenly, you’re expected to take on an even greater workload, how do you react? in the back of your mind, you might be thinking you’re not earning enough money to take on this extra responsibility or you simply don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done. This can leave you feeling angry, resentful or stressed which is sure to impact your mental and physical wellbeing. A study published by The Lancet showed that “employees who work long hours have a higher risk of stroke than those working standard hours”.
Setting boundaries
Often we worry about saying no to additional requests from management for fear of losing our jobs or creating an unpleasant atmosphere in the workplace, so we continue to take on more work than we can realistically handle. Once work starts to impinge on our personal life or wellbeing, it’s time to start setting boundaries.

Before you approach your boss, it’s important to understand what your priorities are, such as enjoying precious family time and feeling physically and mentally healthy. This way when you do have to set boundaries, any feelings of guilt will have been diminished prior to the conversation.

A report published by Udemy shows that employee boundaries are often being crossed with 59% of managers feeling pressurised into working through their lunch breaks.
Don’t respond in haste. If you’ve received an unreasonable request from your boss asking you to take on more work or to work longer hours, in the heat of the moment you could be tempted to reply in haste, especially if your stress levels are already high. however, it’s important to consider the request before responding.

Arrange a one-to-one meeting with your boss so that you can discuss your current workload and explain how their request would impact your personal life and current workload. Also, if you offer an alternative solution, they could suggest that one of your colleagues takes over an existing project while you focus on the new task. Be clear and polite if you feel like you need to take some time to assess a situation or request, then do so. It’s so important to respond in a polite manner while being firm and clear at the same time. If you want to offer an explanation, then that’s fine but keep it concise.

Remember that by setting boundaries with your boss, you are respecting yourself and your feelings as well as protecting your mental wellbeing. And although you may fear a negative outcome. there’s a good chance that your boss will also have more respect for you and be more considerate in the future when allocating tasks. In the long term this can lead to healthier and more authentic relationships in the workplace.

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Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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