Setting boundaries in the workplace is always easier when you’re in a new work environment, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only time you can draw a line in the sand.

In this episode we talk about what happens when you are setting boundaries for the first time, or you need to change the boundaries you’ve already set. How do you decide on your boundaries and how do you communicate them to the people in your life? How do you hold yourself accountable to the boundaries you have put in place?

Links I mentioned in this episode:

24. Setting boundaries at work – Transcript

[00:00:00] Hi, there I’m Bec McFarland the host of the Pop Your Career Podcast. As a career coach, I’m most passionate about helping my clients to discover their own personal flavour of career fulfillment. In this podcast, we are going to be exploring ways that you too can feel more fulfilled by your work. So strap yourself in, get ready for the ride. The tips around here are fast and in abundance.

[00:00:29] Hello, hello, it’s Bec McFarland here, and of course I’m helping you to do better and be better in your career. Excited to be here today to talk to you about the idea of setting boundaries and particularly setting boundaries in your career. I always find that boundaries is a very [00:01:00]interesting topic to talk about with people, because a lot of the time our perception of boundaries is a little bit different to what it actually is. So let’s talk about that.

[00:01:12] When we set boundaries, we often think about it like putting up a big stop sign and we’re holding that stop sign out, and if anyone comes near us, we’re like, ‘No, stop’. This is kind of correct. It’s a little bit aggressive. Doesn’t really need to be like that. But also what it fails to appreciate is that the stop sign is actually double sided.

[00:01:45] Now, if you don’t get what I mean by that, I just want you to imagine that when you set a boundary, when you draw a line in the sand, you are effectively saying to somebody else, ‘This is my boundary. I do not give you permission to [00:02:00] cross it’. You are also saying the same to yourself. Here is a boundary. I do not give you permission to cross it.

[00:02:10] And the boundaries that we set are just as much for ourselves and are just as important for ourselves as they are for the people around us. And I think this is really important because when we ignore or abuse our own boundaries, we’re actually sending mixed messages to people and we’re actually diminishing the boundaries that we have set.

[00:02:35] I work with a lot of people who need to set better boundaries. I shouldn’t say need. Need is, um, again, You know, perhaps not the right word. I work with a lot of people who could choose to set better boundaries. They might benefit from setting better boundaries. What do I mean by this though? I [00:03:00] mean, I work with a lot of clients who have things like perfectionist tendencies or workaholic type tendencies and who really struggle with drawing a line when it comes to things like work life balance.

[00:03:17] The number of hours that they’re willing to work, the way in which they, they are willing to work and things like that. And what I find is that a lot of these people get themselves into a little bit of a pickle because they repeat these behaviours over and over and over again, so much so that their behaviour becomes like part of their identity or part of their personality.

[00:03:44] You know, when I’m talking to people who are like consistently working 10 hour days in the office, but they’ve been doing it for the last seven years, and their boss does that too. It’s really difficult for them to [00:04:00] first comprehend that it is okay to set a different boundary, but then for them to be able to communicate that boundary to the other people that are in their lives as well. Like it can be a little bit tricky.

[00:04:14] I do think that sometimes, when you change jobs, it can be a really good time to identify what your boundaries are and then to be able to communicate them, because at that time, the people that you’re working with, like they have no experience with you, they don’t know what was part of your identity or your behaviour in your last job. So there are no expectations.

[00:04:40] So you can set those expectations or those boundaries right up front and say things like, Hey, on Thursdays I have to leave the office at three o’clock on the dot because I need to get my kid to swimming lessons. That’s a boundary that is totally okay for you to set, or you may have different [00:05:00] boundaries around the type of work that you are willing to do or around the type of clients that you are willing to work with.

[00:05:10] Now, I have got a couple of boundaries that are specifically about the hours that I work. So one of my boundaries is that I do not work with clients on a Sunday. Sometimes I do work, right? Sometimes I do choose to work because I enjoy my work, but I will not ever see a client on a Sunday unless there is a really damn good reason.

[00:05:42] And I then make the choice to make a single exception for that person. And the likelihood of that happening is pretty much nil. I’m really strong on that particular boundary. So another boundary that I have, uh, around the [00:06:00] hours that I work is that I don’t do client stuff or stuff for the business that requires me to be front facing at night.

[00:06:08] So I do not do zooms at night, whether that be delivering zooms or attending zooms. If I book in for an online course or program, I’m not going to attend the Zooms at night. It’s just not going to happen. Um, but I’m also very discerning around the types of events and things like that that I go to at night.

[00:06:31] I really try and steer clear of networking events and things that happen at night. Because realistically at nighttime, I like to park myself on the lounge, hang out with my husband and watch television. I’m a television fanatic and I really appreciate that time every night. And I don’t want to compromise on that.

[00:06:55] Now, recently I did make a choice to compromise on that, to attend [00:07:00] an evening event, but I did that very much by choice because it was an event that I was really, really looking forward to going to, because I really, really wanted to hear the speaker talk, right? It was something that I was excited about, so I allowed myself to be a little bit flexible with my boundaries at that time. But otherwise, I’m really firm on it.

[00:07:24] This episode is brought to you by the Career Clarity Quest, my absolutely free, seven day program, which is designed to support you in getting so much clearer about your next steps. Find it at

[00:07:44] Now, one of the things that I like about having boundaries is that they are just matter of fact, it’s not about anyone else. Um, it’s not offensive. And if people get offended by your boundaries, then hey, like that [00:08:00] is totally their choice. It reflects nothing upon you though.

[00:08:06] And so because of this, I find that having these boundaries allows me to communicate things to people without feeling bad or feeling guilt or feeling judged or anything like that. If someone invites me to go somewhere or do something at night, I’m just like, Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t do things at night time. If someone says to me, Hey, can I book an appointment on Sundays? I’m like, I’m sorry, I don’t do client appointments on Sundays.

[00:08:32] Now there are just a couple of boundaries around the hours that I work, but there are other boundaries that I have as well. So I’m in the process of implementing a boundary around using Facebook Messenger, and this is not just with my business, this is actually with my friends and everything as well.

[00:08:47] I find Facebook Messenger really, really overwhelming. I don’t enjoy using Facebook Messenger. I find that it creates stress, it creates anxiety, and so I [00:09:00] am in the process of implementing a system, which means that I will no longer be using Facebook Messenger. I am personally going to be working with my team to put some other mechanisms in place that basically mean that people cannot contact me through Facebook Messenger anymore, and that if they would like to speak to me, these are the ways that they can do it.

[00:09:18] I had a little moment of feeling quite guilty about that and thinking to myself, you know, how are people going to feel about this? Are they going to think that I’m being a diva, because I’m putting these rules around communication and stuff? But if somebody feels like that, if they feel like I’m being a diva, or they feel offended, or they feel upset, or they feel triggered or activated in any kind of way, by the fact that I have set a boundary around the communication methods that I’m willing to use, then again, that’s their problem, not mine.

[00:09:51] That sounds harsh, but it is an invitation for them to reflect on what is bringing up stuff for them, because it has no [00:10:00] bearing on me and my decisions around the way that I choose to communicate with the people in my life.

[00:10:07] So again, the beauty of having that boundary means that once I’ve set it in stone, I don’t need to feel bad about it. I don’t need to be going about apologizing to people saying, Oh, sorry, I don’t use Facebook Messenger. There is no sorry anymore. And again, that’s not me trying to be an asshole or trying to create problems for anyone or anything like that. It’s just me basically saying, This is like, it’s not comfortable for me. It’s just not the way that I do things.

[00:10:36] So I understand that in a workplace when you’ve got a manager, there’s a lot of things that maybe you feel like you can’t set boundaries about, but I would challenge you to think otherwise.

[00:10:50] I would challenge you to go back to your career values that we spoke about in episode six and seven and have a think about like, what are the things that are most important to [00:11:00] you? And once you understand what those things are, what are the rules by which you live your life setting those boundaries becomes a lot easier.

[00:11:08] So, as I said, boundaries are definitely a lot easier to communicate and to maintain when you are at the beginning of a relationship with somebody. But I don’t want you to feel like just because you have an established way of doing things, that you can’t change that established way of doing things and implement boundaries at a later stage.

[00:11:30] What I would say to you is that in all of my experiences, the setting and maintenance of boundaries works most effectively when you communicate them. The people around you are not mind readers. So if you find yourself getting upset that people are boundary stomping and that they’re doing things that feel uncomfortable to you, then the first question that I would ask yourself is, have I appropriately communicated this to the other [00:12:00] person? Do they understand that this is a boundary?

[00:12:04] If they do, then there are other issues at play, and maybe that’s another episode that we have to do down the track but it does just highlight the importance of making sure that you do spread awareness about the boundaries that you’re putting in place. And as I said at the beginning of the episode, that you are also respecting those boundaries yourself because you can’t expect other people to respect your boundaries, if you yourself are disrespecting them.

[00:12:37] I hope this has been helpful to you and that you are starting to think about maybe some of the boundaries that you might want to set in the workplace. I do have a few more boundaries floating around, so if you’re interested about hearing about them, I would love for you to check in with me over on social media. Let’s talk about these boundaries. Let’s normalize the setting and maintenance of boundaries inside and outside of the workplace. [00:13:00]

[00:13:00] Have a beautiful week, and I will see you in the next episode. Bye-bye now.

[00:13:04] Thanks so much for listening to the Pop Your Career podcast. I hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s tips and that you found value in what I’ve shared with you. If you like your career advice quick and entertaining, I would love for you to subscribe. Also leave me a rating and a review. If you want to continue the conversation, come and join me over on social media. You can find me everywhere at Pop Your Career. I’ll see you soon.


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About the author 


Bec McFarland is an experienced HR practitioner, manager, career coach and the creator of Pop Your Career. She delights in sharing practical, straight to the point career advice, spending time with her family and eating Mexican food.