Boutique PR, Advertising and Marketing Recruitment Services

Matching industry leaders with high calibre talent in Sydney & Melbourne

How To Assert Boundaries At Work

Staying late and showing ‘face’ is a really common theme with a lot of job seekers we talk to. In fact, it’s one of the reasons they look for new jobs; it’s because they feel like the culture thrives on people looking busy instead of actually being efficient.

One of Iceberg’s Leading Ladies, Ange Lin, gave us such great insights on work boundaries we decided to quiz her for tactics we could all use in the workplace.

Check out what she has to say about creating healthy boundaries at work:

How can job seekers set boundaries at work? It can be a tricky line to tread.

“It’s especially hard for people who are on probation [three month period of a new role] where they genuinely want to make a good impression. But you should start as you mean to continue because acting as though you’ll work after 5pm or 6pm sets an expectation and in the long run is not sustainable.

Sounds sensible. It can be hard to articulate that though.

“Setting it right at the start [at your interview] is going to be the most impactful.

“It’s about asking those questions early on: ‘what time do people leave here?’ ‘What examples do you have of supporting your employees through difficult times?’ Those sorts of questions which are really infrequently asked at interview.

“Don’t be afraid to interview the job, company and their culture as well.”

What about workers who are already in a job where they feel they have to be ‘seen’ at work at a certain time. It can be those subtle things that make people feel uncomfortable exerting their boundaries.

“It’s moreso about asking yourself: do you have a life that you actually like? Why are you at work all the time? Do you like your life outside of work? It’s scary how many people use work as a crutch to avoid other stuff, you know.

“Be honest about who you are and why you are actually at work after 5pm. One week working over time is going to turn into two weeks, this’ll turn into months and before you know it you’re going to burn out.”

So, if people are working late, constantly, how can they dig out of the hole they’re in? How can they ask for help?

“You can’t ask for help if you don’t know what the problem is. So start with that and determine what your boundaries are in relations to the problem. Think about how far you are willing to to extend yourself, then escalate the issue accordingly.

“Asking for help is the most challenging aspect because there’s an element of feeling like you’re failing, or admitting defeat. Just know that there is a gap between how you think you will be perceived, and how you’ll actually be perceived. If you don’t say the words and afford yourself the support then nothing will change.

“It comes down to knowing what you will and won’t accept. If in your mind, how people perceive you ranks higher than how you see yourself – you will lose out. In every area of your life – not just work.”

Walk us through an example.

“Ask ‘why’ you’re doing what you’re doing, or feeling what you’re feeling, until you properly understand it.

“In this case, why would it be easier tomorrow if I stay late tonight? Because there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do my job. Why? Because I haven’t asked for additional support. Why? Because I need to keep a healthy budget for my project. Why isn’t there enough budget? Because no one accounted for contingency. Why didn’t anyone account for contingency? Because we were scared of losing the pitch if we didn’t come in under the client’s budget. Why didn’t we explain the effort and the value of our product to the client to justify this cost? Because the business development team doesn’t really understand our offering or couldn’t communicate it in a way that was valuable to the client.

“And then you understand that you’re resentful because you’re the one who’s ended up bearing the impact of all this, which allows you to ask yourself practical questions, like, ‘How can this be improved moving forward’.

“Having this awareness, even if you choose the same actions over and over, will have a positive impact within yourself and give you a greater sense of control.

Want to know more? Check out Ange’s Leading Ladies profile with tips on exerting boundaries at work and her take on work life balance.