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3 Essential Workplace Boundaries For Employee Wellbeing

Written by: Dana Gionta, Ph.D., Senior Level Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Dana Gionta, Ph.D.

Learning to set healthy boundaries in relationships and in the workplace is the 1 skill I teach all my coaching clients. Work/life boundaries are essential for our overall well-being, happiness, and optimal performance.

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Boundaries are limits that define us in relationship to someone or something, and the most common types are physical, mental, emotional, and financial. They serve 5 key functions. They help to protect us, clarify what is and isn’t our responsibility, preserve our physical and emotional energy, create clear professional expectations, and live our values and standards. Blurred or poor workplace boundaries contribute to increased stress, burnout, decreased performance and voluntary attrition.


Learning to set effective boundaries is an invaluable skill that unfortunately, we are often not taught in school or the workplace. In her article, Dr. Gionta shares the key signals to know when to set a boundary, and a valuable step-by-step process to use as a guide.


Three essential workplace boundaries


Work/Life


With the blurring of boundaries between home and work during the pandemic and the rise of remote work, the ability to draw the line between where work ends and family/personal time begins has become increasingly unclear. The advances in technology with 24/7 access to the office, staff and employees has also contributed to this blurring with many work/life boundaries being violated. This shows up differently depending on the industry, leadership and workplace culture. However, several common presentations are employees being called or texted far beyond the typical 9-5 hours, often at 9 pm or later. Next day deliverables are being required, resulting in employees working into the morning hours to meet a client’s unrealistic deadline. This deadline unfortunately is approved by management, at the detriment of employees’ mental and physical wellbeing.


On special occasions, this is doable. However, it is becoming “business as usual” in many workplaces, resulting in significant psychological stress and often, burnout for their employees.


It is essential for our overall well-being that we have manageable role load or responsibilities, clarity of our role(s), and healthy work/life boundaries, especially over the long-term. We can often cope relatively well with increased demands for two to three weeks at a time, however it becomes unhealthy when such demands extend beyond that, with little opportunity for self-renewal. The high levels of stress, anxiety and burnout occurring globally, with increasing employee health issues and mental health days taken – are a direct effect of workplace boundaries that are in the unhealthy zone.


Role clarity


Oftentimes, especially when an employee is hired, there is ambiguity about what the new employee’s specific responsibilities will be, and the proportion of time that will be allotted to it. This happened to myself and many coaching clients I’ve had. Sometimes this is due to the developmental phase of the business, other times it is intentional by the company for various reasons. This contributes to confusion and uncertainty, and often the acceptance of a position that may not be a great fit for either the organization or the employee.


Unclear roles may also happen when an employee has two or three bosses, or supports multiple departments, and is given ever-changing tasks and responsibilities. It makes it quite difficult to know one’s job description and what the scope of one’s position is.


Behavioral


Using Intimidating language and cursing, or nonverbal threatening or violent gestures are surprisingly not uncommon in organizations. It was jarring to me to hear reports from my coaching clients that employees or managers can punch a wall, slam a fist on a boardroom table, and curse or grimace in a meeting without consequence. Such behaviors profoundly impact employees’ sense of safety, trust and overall wellbeing, and negates whatever psychological safety had existed in the workplace. These behaviors should not be tolerated within any organization. Firm behavioral boundaries with clear consequences for such violations need to be communicated and consistently implemented.


Another concerning behavior is micromanagement, which when done repeatedly, often leads to unhealthy boundaries between management and staff or between co-workers. A recent HBR article reports a significant relationship between micromanagement behavior and employees’ increased risk for a heart attack or stroke. This is very concerning.


Micromanaging another’s performance, regardless of the motivation, crosses an important line of healthy independence in another’s way of being, thinking and acting. It is not reflecting respect or trust in another’s competency or ability to learn and meet performance expectations, and will negatively impact the work relationship, motivation, overall performance, and wellbeing. Research consistently shows that a sense of autonomy is a highly valued workplace need.


Cultivating a workplace culture that values healthy workplace boundaries will optimize performance, increase work/life balance and satisfaction, and reduce turnover, burnout and health costs. This will occur not at the expense of, but through higher employee wellbeing, fostered by these essential workplace boundaries. It is important to note that it is not the sole responsibility of employees to set healthy boundaries. An organization’s workplace boundaries need to be a collaborative effort between leadership and employees.


To develop the skill of setting boundaries, download my 8 Step Process for Setting Boundaries infographic here, and you will also then receive my biweekly Boundaries, Wellbeing and Courageous Change (BWC) newsletter. See here.


Follow me on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and visit my website for more info!

Dana Gionta, Ph.D. Brainz Magazine
 

Dana Gionta, Ph.D., Senior Level Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dana Gionta, Ph.D. is an executive coach, psychologist, motivational speaker and author spanning over 20 years. She is the founder of Dana Gionta Coaching, and specializes in boundaries in the workplace, leadership development, employee wellbeing and organizational performance.


With a diverse professional background in business, psychology, and health, Dr. Gionta provides coaching and consulting to senior leaders and high-achieving professionals in small to larger Fortune 500 organizations. In her life coaching and psychology practice, she works with individuals on areas related to relationships, career challenges, boundaries, wellbeing, burnout, and midlife transitions.


Dr. Gionta is the co-author of the book From Stressed to Centered: A Practical Guide to a Healthier and Happier You, and has been featured in Strategy and Business, Inc., Psychology Today, Inverse, PsychCentral, Expert Beacon and Lawline. She speaks nationally on topics related to workplace boundaries, employee well-being, work/life balance, burnout, and self-renewal. You can learn more about her services at: www.danagionta.com

Sign up for my biweekly email letter on Boundaries, Wellbeing and Courageous Change, and/or connect with me for a complimentary session to explore how I can help here: https://linktr.ee/danagiontacoaching

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