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How to know your boundaries at the workplace

Organizations need to invest in social communication skills, assertiveness and enhance and encourage workplace relationships which bring positivity, says Dr Samir Parikh, Director, Fortis National Mental Health programme

Organizations need to look at helping people develop their social skills, learning assertiveness and creating an environment which is positive. (File photo)

Let’s call him A. He came to me a few months ago with this primary concern of feeling frustrated for not being treated properly. A just couldn’t say NO and felt that there was a constant boundary transgression happening where not just seniors but even colleagues would ask him to do some of their work. This inability to say NO resulted in A being constantly overworked and even though he was organised, would finish tasks on time, there was always something or the other left to do. It felt like a thankless thing to do, yet A feared that not completing something or saying “No” would cost the support of colleagues and superiors. This worry of the negative impact of saying no on the career path resulted in a loss of motivation.

Problems at work and home began as well, because of the dissatisfaction and the bottled-up angst that is ‘why I am not able to say “No,” and maintain a boundary?’

I met B who was struggling because the kind of boundaries B needed were not possible at this particular workplace – being a relatively private person, he didn’t like to spend too much time with too many people.

Though B had good friends and was close to colleagues, he didn’t feel comfortable in a large gathering. This was especially difficult when people would share things about themselves while B always preferred to keep personal things within certain boundaries. Once it happened that one of B’s colleagues started sharing some personal things shared by B with others at the workplace and B felt very violated. Thereafter B went into a shell, lost trust in people and that resulted in a drastic impact on performance

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Another example is C, whose superior at times would try to use rough language in trying to motivate colleagues when upset. This is where C was frustrated and started feeling there was toxicity in the environment and this relationship between superior and junior was more traumatizing and abusive and the boundaries were not being maintained.

Then there is another situation, where this person D likes another colleague but the colleague does not reciprocate – D continues to pursue creating a very negative environment at work.

All of these examples are situations that we come across in our work life. These are people who came to me because they had different impacts because of these boundaries being crossed, whether it was a boundary of trust, a boundary of saying NO, a boundary of being pushy, or being bullied. All of that happens when we do not respect our own selves and others. When it comes to workplace relationships, one of the key aspects to maintaining healthy relationships is developing and growing the skill of assertiveness. Be assertive without being rude.

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We all need to understand that we have our own boundaries and so do others. And the right approach to work-life is you respect other people’s boundaries based on their personalities.

With the feedback, you get through communication you will realize that somebody is comfortable with jokes somebody is not, somebody is comfortable with a hug while others are not. Somebody likes to spend time in a certain way and somebody doesn’t and that is how you learn to respect these boundaries. Similarly, you must respect your own boundary, so somebody crosses that boundary you stand up with respect and dignity, tell the other person that this is not how it works.

What it does is that people start knowing about each other, open up, share views, build trust and rapport but respect each other especially when it comes to boundaries and once you are able to do that you start having meaningful relationships at work. I believe that in these times where we spend most of our productive time at work and work is so integral to our mental health and our wellbeing, happy good positive relationships can be a huge differentiator between those who do well and those who struggle at work.

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So, organizations need to look at helping people develop their social skills, learning assertiveness and creating an environment which is positive. Relationships between colleagues must become building blocks of success and these relationships should not become a hindrance to growth.

Organizations need to invest in social communication skills, assertiveness and enhance and encourage workplace relationships which bring positivity.

First published on: 03-10-2022 at 07:59:52 pm
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