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How to respond when your boss pushes your boundaries

By 27/07/2023November 22nd, 2023I Don't Know What I Want To Do, Work Life
How to respond when your boss pushes your boundaries

How do you respond when your boss pushes your boundaries?

It’s Christmas Day, or a holiday you celebrate. You’re opening presents with your family.

It’s a sacred time for you, and a time to unplug and be present with the people you love.

All of a sudden you hear your phone ringing. You check your messages and you see that your boss sent you a text message. 

“What’s the status on that sales report?”

You immediately shift from feeling the joy of the holiday to frustration and anger. 

Seriously? This is my time with my family! How are you asking for this today? 

Your boss crossed your boundaries, and your mind is filled with thoughts about how your boss doesn’t respect your time off. 

What do you do? How do you respond? 

Setting boundaries in the workplace is challenging. Your work is linked to your livelihood, and the commitment you demonstrate to your work impacts how others view you. There’s always the risk that setting your boundaries may not be well received. 

However, being transparent about your boundaries is very important. It helps to foster safety, trust and integrity. You’re being clear about your needs and what’s important to you, which allows your colleagues and employees to meet your expectations. This is necessary for building healthy relationships and a healthy work culture. 

Even though it might feel challenging, setting boundaries will have a huge, positive impact on your work experience! 

Here are 4 steps to setting boundaries in the workplace. 

Share your boundaries early in your working relationship

The more transparent and open you are early on in your working relationship, the better. 

Many situations like this one, where a boss is texting you during off hours, can be avoided if you talk about your needs in advance.

For example, when a new team member joins Work Bigger, we have a 1-1 and we talk through what our boundaries are. 

This can include working hours and when it’s ok to reach out – both for regular, daily tasks and urgent situations. We also talk through boundaries around communication and scope of work. 

Once we highlight what each of our boundaries are, we write them down for reference in the future. 

Having this conversation at the start, makes it easier to have these conversations again in the future, especially if someone happens to break the agreement. It sets the tone for an open and transparent relationship. 

Identify your needs 

One of the first steps to take when your boss pushes your boundaries is to identify what your unmet need is. We know our needs are being met when we are happy. Alternatively, when we’re frustrated, unhappy, or angry, it means our needs, in that moment, are not being met. 

Let’s go back to the holiday scenario. You know you’re angry and frustrated because your boss pushed your boundaries. 

From this place, consider what your unmet need is. 

Do you have a need for consideration, understanding, or space? 

It can be really difficult to name our needs. It’s not something we’re used to thinking about often. In fact many of us have also learned to suppress our needs because it seems “selfish” or indulgent. 

But having needs is part of being human. 

To help you with identifying your unmet needs, use the NVC Needs List as a guide. Which words are you drawn to the most? See how they land. 

Once you know your needs, you can communicate them more effectively and clearly.

Set up a time to talk 

I’ll say this again. When your needs are met, you’re happy. When your needs aren’t met, your wellbeing is negatively impacted.

One way to meet your needs is to communicate and state what they are. 

I always think face to face conversations are the way to go. 

A lot can become evident through our energy, body language, facial expressions and our tone of voice that’s missed via text or email.

You might be tempted to respond right away, but hold off. Wait until you’re calm and then request a specific place and time to speak. 

As you prepare for the conversation, have the following ready:

  • Your intention for the discussion
  • What you’re needing from your boss 
  • A request you want to make of them  

Once you meet with your boss, consider this script:

I received your message on Christmas day. I want to be a team player and I care about our projects. 

I felt frustrated when I saw your project request because, during my days off, I need consideration and space to be with my family. Can we talk about our time boundaries and expectations during holidays and PTO?

You’re stating the facts, speaking to your feelings and to what you need, and asking to come up with a solution together. 

Create accountability 

One way to create accountability when your boss pushes your boundaries is to have a process in place. 

Is there a way to document your agreements? 

And if agreements are broken, what happens? 

Can you also check in with each other during weekly one-on-one meetings to see how you’re maintaining agreements and if there’s room for improvement? 

Make this a part of your regular conversations and meetings. 

It will allow you to stay on track and maintain an open, healthy working relationship. 

In conclusion 

It’s triggering when your boss pushes your boundaries. Your mind might flood with frustration, anger and fear. 

My recommendation is to face the situation head on. Consider it an opportunity to highlight what you need and set a specific time and place to have the discussion. 

Open communication and transparency will help to foster a better work environment for you and others. 

Found this helpful? Download our workbook, Attach to a Purpose, Not a Job to get clarity on what you want, faster! 

Belma McCaffrey

Author Belma McCaffrey

More posts by Belma McCaffrey

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