Establishing Boundaries at Work

Establishing Boundaries at Work

Setting expectations with managers

As a new employee at a company, maybe you’re feeling in over your head. You’re overwhelmed by the workload, which is ever-growing, and on top of all of that, your manager wants you to commit to specific deadlines on projects that are brand new to you. You want to comply and be seen as a confident, cooperative, and capable go-getter, but by agreeing to turnaround times and deadlines you don’t know for sure you can meet, are you destined to fail?

It’s a judgment call that can be especially challenging for a new employee – you don’t know what you don’t know as a brand new employee! All you’re really after is succeeding in your role. How do you navigate these conversations successfully and respectfully, without losing the respect of your manager?

The answer is in setting boundaries and expectations. Specifically, frame your needs in a way of expressing that you want “us” – yourself and your manager – to be successful. For instance, you could tell your manager, “I want to be successful for you, so I’m going to share with you that I’m not confident about committing to timelines when I don’t feel estimating time on these projects, as they are still new to me. I don’t want to disappoint you by committing to too short of a turnaround time.”

Managers respect authenticity like this. We all forget what it’s like when you’re new to a role and a company – there’s so much to learn and take in. Be sure you’re setting yourself up for success by opening up about concerns early on, and frame those concerns in your interest for long-term success at the company.

For more tips on how to approach difficult conversations, consult helpful guides like How to Say Anything to Anyone.


Setting boundaries on social media

There’s a lot of pressure for everyone to connect online these days. Molly Kelley, Senior HR Business Partner at Xenium, shares, “At workshops I lead, I’m often asked about whether there are rules around social media. Are managers free to connect with direct reports? What about colleagues or clients in general?”

“There’s truly no hard and fast rule, but I’ve learned from experience that it’s crucial to find where those boundaries ought to be drawn, often dependent on your industry or field and the types of professional relationships you have. For example, I was involved in an HR investigation that involved people I was friends with. That was challenging.”

“I’ve also had to lay off people who I’m connected with on social media. That’s also heartbreaking, because a week later you may see that person post, I’m not sleeping at night. So anxious. Or, Stood for an hour in the employment department, still waiting. It’s just tough.”

There are personal boundaries you ought to set, to give yourself a buffer emotionally. But you should also set boundaries out of respect for the people you are supporting as a manager or as an HR representative.

Allison Julander