Setting Boundaries With Colleagues at Work

Business Communication 4th April 2017 Ruchira Karnik

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At work, setting physical and emotional boundaries for yourself is important for it helps people understand where to draw the line. Interestingly, despite this, some manage to overstep the border and think that apologizing is enough. For such people, you may have to make repeated efforts so that they understand where they need to stop and what is off-limits for them. At the same time, while you expect others to respect your space, it is equally important you respect others’ too and know when to trace your steps. Now, let’s take a look at why setting boundaries with colleagues is important and how you can do it.

Touch me not

After sexual harassment claims at Tesla and Uber, it was TVF’s Arunabh Kumar who was under the spotlight for being disrespectful of physical boundaries with a female colleague. And, barely two weeks later, in news is Miki Agrawal, an Indian-American woman, who co-founded THINX who has been charged with molesting female employees, verbally and sexually. Both Arunabh and Miki have come out in their defence issuing statements that don’t work in their favour at all. Arunabh thinks he has the right to compliment women ‘sexy’ if he finds them to be, while Miki went on to say, “I know I’m passionate and oft-unruly in my ways (as a taboo breaker must be), but I have never, ever crossed the line in the inflammatory ways described. This is all I am going to say on this matter.”

Related: 5 Professional Ethics To Follow At Workplace

Investigations are ongoing for these public cases, but they do teach us all something important: don’t be taken advantage of, even if it is your boss or a junior clerk who thinks he can make a pass at you, irrespective of your gender. In fact. don’t delay setting boundaries with colleagues. Raise an alarm the moment you sense danger and these strangers encroaching your personal space.

No gossips

Some colleagues indulge in gossips which may even be maligning in nature. It is such talks and people that you should keep away from. Should you find them trying to scoop out information from you or a colleague, who is surely uncomfortable, speak up. Excuse yourself and walk away. Don’t entertain them by talking about your boss or a colleague you don’t like or personal stuff. They look for weak links and throw them under the bus. You shouldn’t hesitate from setting boundaries with colleagues who falls in this category.

Related: How to Stay Focussed at Work and Beat Distractions

Don’t take phone calls after work

Switch off the moment you step out of the work. You spent an entire day at work so there’s no point spending the rest of your waking hours thinking about it. Enjoy your personal time and don’t let colleagues or boss make it a habit of sending you work to be finished at home. For this to be made clear, don’t take calls from colleagues and let people know you are available during working hours for every discussion.

Related: Remember these 5 Phone Etiquette at Work

Respect ‘out of office’

When you are on leaves, remember that you have earned those off days. Set your ‘out of office’ reply and be clear about your unavailability. If you must add a colleague’s email id and number, ask them first. Let your colleagues know that you will appreciate them asking you before they put yours too. This way everyone will work in accordance to expectations that have already be discussed. Make life easy, does it not?

Related: Challenging, but possible: Guilt-free Ways to Say No the Right Way

Romancing a colleague

This is completely your call. There is every possibility that people might talk behind your back, bu that shouldn’t bother you, if you are confident about the person and that they or you are not using them to your advantage at work. Besides, if people do spread rumours, you can always show them their place by either keeping quiet (and them guessing) or confronting them with questions of their interest in something which doesn’t concern them.

Working extra hours?

Whether you are joining a new organization or have been working in one for some time now, discuss work hours.  Sit back only if there is an urgency because you might be expected to be available round the clock. Naturally, your personal life then goes for a toss. Understand that you don’t have to explain anyone why you can’t stay or don’t stay late. Everyone’s got a life to live and have priorities they need to take care of.

Related: Understanding the Need for Employee Motivation

Once you have set these boundaries, you will have less to worry about and will spend a productive day at work.


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