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Posts Tagged ‘boundaries’
Life Invaders: How Work Invades Your Personal Life

There was a time when employees showed up for work, worked eight hours, and then went home.  Not so today.  The boundaries between work and home have become blurred.  Here’s why:

  • Longer hours. Employers often ask employees to work longer hours.  Sometimes, overtime is mandatory.  In order to move up the career ladder, many employees believe they need to put in more “face time” at the office.  In fact, the average workweek today is 49.2 hours.
  • Global economy. As more companies outsource or move jobs overseas to reduce labor costs, employees feel pressured to work longer hours and produce more to protect their jobs.
  • International business. If you work in an international business, work continues around the world 24/7.  Therefore, workers may be on call around the clock for trouble-shooting or consulting.  Also, the work day is lengthened by early morning or evening meetings to accommodate people in different time zones.
  • Advanced communication technology. With the advent of laptop computers, cell phones, and personal handheld devices, people now have the ability to work anywhere – at the office, at home, from their car, or even on vacation.  Advanced technology has increased expectations with regard to response time, so now we’re constantly connected with the office.  Some managers even expect it.

If you’ve experienced any of these challenges, you understand how easy it is for work to invade your personal life.  If you’re not careful, work can overtake your life.  In order to avoid that, you need to set boundaries around work in order to keep balanced.  For tips on how to set boundaries on work, please see the article “Setting Boundaries at Work”.

How to Say “No” Tactfully

Do you find yourself doing for others at the expense of yourself?  Are you always the one people come to for help?  Do you find yourself taking on extra work, helping out at your child’s school, and doing favors for friends?  If so, you may be a “people pleaser”.  People pleasers are so concerned about pleasing others that they end up constantly doing for others and not taking care of their own needs.

As women, most of us were taught as children that it was “bad” or rude to say “no”.  Therefore, as adults we still find it difficult to say “no”, even when asked to take on an impossible workload.  Beware of the “Kiss of Yes” – that is, saying “yes, I can do it”, “Yes, I’ll take that on”, “Yes, yes, yes!”  By trying to do it all you’ll become overwhelmed.  As a result you may not be able to follow through, and then end up disappointing others and feeling resentful.

How can you avoid the “Kiss of Yes”?  Realize that you cannot do it all.  By always being agreeable, you are agreeing to live with overload and anxiety, and giving up personal or family time.  Saying “yes” to somebody else can mean saying “no” to your own needs, goals and priorities.  Therefore, you need to know what’s most important to you.  You may have a more compelling “yes” that allows you to say “no” to others.

So how can you say ”no” tactfully?  Here are a couple of approaches for getting to “no” and leaving both sides happy.

The Sandwich Approach – Start out with a positive, decline, and then end on a positive note.  For example, when asked to participate on a task force, you might say, “I’m very interested in the project and I’d like to help, but ‘my plate’ is full.  Keep me in mind when another opportunity comes up.”  This approach sounds more positive than simply saying “no”, and helps maintain the relationship.

Negotiated “No” – Negotiate with the other person to find a solution that meets his or her needs, but doesn’t overload you.  You might negotiate the deadline or the scope of the project.  For example, you might say, “I can take on this project if you can provide some help” or “I won’t be able to do it until tomorrow, but I could provide you with resources if you need to do it today”.  By negotiating, this tells the other person that you’re willing to help, but want to be realistic at the same time.

By saying “no” or negotiating with the other person, you’re able to protect yourself from becoming overloaded and overwhelmed.  By saying “no” to the less important things, you’re saying “yes” to your most important priorities.

Setting Boundaries at Work

Do you feel overworked?  Our jobs can feel overwhelming, and invade the rest of our lives.  Sometimes, however, the issue of overwork has more to do with ourselves than with job expectations.  Because we are so driven, we have high expectations of ourselves.  We want to do an excellent job; we want others to think highly of us; or we want to prove ourselves.  Sometimes the pressure we feel is self-imposed. 

There are times when we need to say “no” to work and to our demanding selves.  Here are ways you can set boundaries at work, so you can reclaim your life.

Set Limits on Work Hours.  If you’re working yourself ragged, then set limits on your work hours.  Determine how much overtime you’re willing to work.  Keep in mind some overtime may be expected during significant project crunches.  Or determine how late you’re willing to work each day.  Maybe you decide you’re going to leave the office no later than 6:00 p.m. each day.  Oftentimes, you’ll find you make better use of your time and therefore are more productive, because you’re working towards an end time.  If you don’t set a time limit, then work will grow to fill the time you’ve set aside for it.

A company president who was allowing work to keep him away from home too much made a commitment to spend only fifty hours a week in the office.  At first, he really struggled because he wasn’t used to budgeting his time and commitments so closely.  Slowly though, when he realized that he only had so much time, he began to spend it more wisely.  He even got more accomplished because he was forced to work smarter.

Don’t Accept Business Calls After Hours.  Do you accept business calls in the evening?  If so, this cuts into your personal time.  When Lilliya started her business as an insurance agent, she put 100% into building her business.  She worked from 8:00 in the morning to 8:00 or 9:00 o’clock at night.  She had no life outside of work, and eventually became unhappy.  So Lilliya decided to make some changes.  She reset her clients’ expectations by telling them she was not available after hours except in an emergency situation.  So now she has evenings to herself.

Avoid Working Weekends.  One busy manager, Maria, decided she wasn’t going to take work home with her on the weekends anymore.  Her work was cutting into time with her family and was affecting her family life.  She made a commitment not to work weekends.  Now she spends that time with family and for recreation, so she comes back to work on Monday mornings refreshed and ready to tackle her job.

By setting boundaries at work you can get your life back.  If you take time for yourself or for recreation, you’ll feel better and have more energy for your work and life.

How do you plan to set boundaries at work?  Please share with other readers.