Given the times we live in, it is essential to set boundaries at work and of course, in any relationship. What you deem are the limits are an expression of your values. They let others know how you feel about various acts and activities and define what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

At work, setting boundaries is a delicate balancing act. You don’t want to come across as an outsider. And there are issues of power and protocol when it comes to superiors.

Responding to a superior who oversteps their limits needs more tact than dealing with a colleague where you feel like you’re on an equal power footing.

Here are the top ten tips for setting boundaries at work:

Boundaries at Work:


Focus on Work.

Think of how much you could accomplish if you could concentrate on your work rather than deal with intrusions. Hence clear boundaries will allow you to work on work, rather than extraneous matters.

Build Bridges with Colleagues.

Having great relationships based on mutual respect is a solid way to build allies while setting boundaries. When people respect you and like you, it is likely they will respect the boundaries – both implicit and explicit.


How you treat your colleagues is a signal on how you want to be treated. When you accept and abide by their boundaries, they’re more likely to reciprocate.

Show Self-Esteem.

A confident person gets their way with people. With self-esteem and self-confidence, you can set clear boundaries and people will take heed.

Chat about it.

At times, explaining where you stand is very powerful. Sometimes it is not malicious intentions but lack of understanding. What’s breach of protocol to you may be different from what your boss may think. Communicate with each other instead of making assumptions.

Come to a middle ground.

In some occasions, compromises and alternatives may be necessary to make everyone happy. Of course, none of these compromises should involve your core values. But other than that, some give and take will help you find a happy medium.

“No” is a perfectly good response.

Anything that compromises your values or crosses the boundaries of decency, or acts of illegality are some things that you need to put a firm stop. So, don’t hesitate to say no.

Be consistent.

It is important to set boundaries and adhere to them. You might be tempted to let some violations slide, but consider the consequences. Others are more likely to recognize your limits if you follow them rigorously.

Change the Culture.

If you unhappy with some aspects of your corporate culture, instead of bemoaning your woes, may be you can be the change you want to see. This may not be easy in all circumstances, but worth a try.

Seek Recourse:

Sometimes things may be out of control and it may warrant that you seek help from HR (Human Resources) or a governmental entity such as EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunities Commission) or a legal counsel. These are drastic steps but sometimes they may be appropriate.
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