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Setting Boundaries to Protect Your Team’s Wellbeing

leadership transition Aug 09, 2023
woman listening meeting

- By Sophie Pinkoski

In today's world we are beginning to see a shift toward workers becoming more confident and assertive in expressing their needs within the workplace. This comes as a result of people recognizing the importance of mental health and making their mental wellbeing a priority in their lives.  

As a leader, you have the opportunity to listen to and support your team members as they identify newfound boundaries in the workplace. 

Your team members may still be uncertain of how to set boundaries within the dynamics between team members and their leaders. If they may feel uncomfortable communicating with their leader or they may not feel that they have the psychological safety to set healthy boundaries. 

Be open with your team to ensure they feel safe enough to share their needs with you.  

Ask questions to understand the intention of their requests for boundaries like workload or not answering emails outside of working hours. Dismissing these types of boundaries leads to lower productivity, high turnover, low quality of work, and overall burnout. Together, you can create solutions that serve the organization and the employee.

In addition, help your team identify their values that address what they need and what no longer serves them, alongside what working style works best for them. Everyone’s values, needs, and boundaries are going to be different; it is best to be open to a variety of options that can accommodate many types of working style, according to individual preference. 

Here are some boundaries you may see your team members set in the workplace: 

Emotional boundaries –– Emotional boundaries pertain to protecting your emotional wellbeing. This involves expressing your preferences for how you want certain things communicated to you. For instance, advice or direction how to improve is often difficult to receive, and negative feedback can be particularly challenging to take in. Some people are more able to process written feedback better than in person feedback and vice versa. It is good practice to be flexible when understanding how team members prefer to receive feedback. 

Provide team members with the tools and space to build their emotional intelligence to pinpoint what triggers their biggest emotional responses. 

Once the leader understands the type of communication each team member best responds to, present feedback in a way that has the best chance to be received as intended. For some people that mean validating their work and reassuring them of the value they bring to the organization. When employees receive feedback in a customized way, they may be more likely to accept and apply it in order to improve. 

Time boundaries –– A common time boundary involves limiting what you’re willing to get done and when. A big component of this is choosing not to respond to emails and calls after working hours. Encouraging your team to disconnect at the end of the day allows everyone to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Sometimes leaders need to lead by example and not contact team members after hours (hint: delay send your emails). Another example of a time boundary is helping your team understand what they’re capable of achieving within a single work day. Once they know what kind of daily workload they can manage, together you can better gauge their limits and when they should say no to taking on new tasks. Then, you can work together to delegate tasks to someone else or determine more manageable deadlines. 

Effective management of each person's available time will yield a better quality of work in the long run. 

Mental boundaries –– Mental boundaries play a significant role in ensuring your team comprehends the extent of their roles and responsibilities. This understanding should be clear from the hiring or promotion process with a well written job description. More often people are setting firm boundaries around taking on responsibilities outside their job description. If your team members are regularly taking on tasks above and beyond their initial position, it may be time to review their role to better reflect the additional responsibilities they are accepting.  

When your team’s boundaries are respected, it’s easier for everyone to maintain their emotional and mental wellbeing. 

Setting boundaries improves productivity and increases quality of work, as individuals are better able to manage their workload and communicate their needs. Leaders who treat these boundaries with understanding and a solution-mindset are more able to effectively support their team. 


Further Reading

Set Better Boundaries, Harvard Business Review

The Emotional Boundaries You Need at Work, Harvard Business Review

Four Tips to Set Healthy Boss-Employee Boundaries, Forbes

Boundaries at Work: 4 Types of Work Boundaries – 2023, Masterclass

Your Boss Not Respecting Your Boundaries? Here’s What You Do, LinkedIn

Respecting Boundaries at Work Leads to Better Relationships, Shortform

The True Cost of Ignoring Your Boundaries at Work, Refinery29

How Healthy Boundaries Build Trust in the Workplace, Strategy + Business

16 Ways to Set Boundaries at Work and Why it Matters, Indeed

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