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Ah, boundaries. A sometimes uncomfortable, but absolutely necessary part of ANY healthy relationship. Those without proper boundaries will often find themselves becoming bitter, burnt out, or simply having no energy left at the end of the day for what and who matters the most to them.
While many are on the “boundary bandwagon” when it comes to personal relationships, often we don’t stop to consider how necessary they are in every aspect of life, and even more specifically when it comes to business relationships.
So, how do you identify what appropriate boundaries are within a professional working relationship? And, how do you begin to set and enforce boundaries when you haven’t yet communicated them or put them in place? We’re glad you asked, as we have spent a lot of time implementing boundaries into our professional lives and find themextremely beneficial.
Decide what business boundaries are the most important to you:
Wondering where to start? Take some time to think about what simply works and what doesn’t work for you. Do you hate working on the evenings and weekends because you want to spend time with your family? Good for you! This is a great boundary to reinforce. Just because your vendors or your colleagues like to work all hours,doesn’t mean that you need to. There is a lot of pressure in the Western working world to work too much and, frankly, too little emphasis on balance and resting on the weekends and evenings. It’s OK if it feels weird because everyone around you isn’t doing the same thing as you.You do you! Try to remind yourself that just because someone sent you a message or slacked you outside of normal business hours, doesn’t mean you have to reply until it’s convenient for you!
Additional boundaries to consider that will help keep you sane:
Other helpful boundaries to consider are having clear payment requirements and sticking within your pre-determined boundaries in this area. While it might be easy to let an excuse for non-payment slide, try to stick firm with your policy when it comes to receiving payment by a certain date. Additionally, a boundary that many entrepreneurs benefit from is one that relates to naysaying loved ones who don’t quite understand your desire to run a business. Oftentimes those that start their own businesses willunintentionally be burdened by judgement from friends & family or lackluster reactions to big wins. This doesn’t mean you can never talk about your business with those people! But make sure to have boundaries in place to spare yourself from unnecessary misunderstandings or unwarranted comments.
Lack of planning on their part does not constitute an emergency on your part:
We’ve all been there. That one business client or colleague that makes everything “urgent” and “time-sensitive.” While there are SOME instances where you truly have an urgent matter to resolve, try to be aware of the type of person who inflicts constant stress and urgency on you. Remind yourself to take a deep breath and consider if their request is outside of your boundaries and if it’s TRULY urgent or if it can wait until it’s a better time for you to handle. Know that their lack of planning doesn’t constitute an emergency on your part.
Communicate your boundaries clearly and early on:
Be extremely frank when it comes to discussing your boundaries. If you don’t want to work on weekends, make that clear from the get-go to those around you that they should not expect a response during that time. An extra layer of protection in this area would be to put on an auto-responder over the weekends and mute notifications from any work apps, such as Slack, etc. Similarly, if video calls are a no-go for you, communicate this up front, before your colleagues have the opportunity to just assume you will be ok with it. The sooner you can be upfront about your boundaries, the better.
Be redundant if necessary:
Be redundant because people need to be reminded. They’ll likely forget if they adhere to a different working style than you. Remember that if it’s important to you, then you need to firmly repeat your boundaries over and over again. For example: we include our“no calls” policy in our ads, our landing pages, our blogand on our form. We don’t want any surprises and want to make sure people understand that this is an important policy for us. Yes, sometimes people forget and that’s OK. It only becomes a problem if they’re excessively needing reminding and/or they’re disrespectful about your boundaries or pushy (which leads us to the next point).
Don’t stand for inappropriate/bad behavior:
People who push back excessively or just don’t get it will never respect your boundaries. Don’t waste your time and energy and professionally cut ties and move on. Remember: boundaries help keep you sane and calm and conserve your energy for what really matters. The fact is: people who whine about boundaries are often the ones who need it the most. We had one client who agreed to our “no calls” policy upon onboarding but, even after continual reminders about this policy, the client kept pushing for regular phone calls. It was clear that the client didn’t fully understand or respect our “no calls” policy and would be better suited for a different agency who did phone calls, so we politely ended our contract with them. To help them out, we offered to assist in finding a great replacement agency who would be a better fit for them. We sincerely knew this would be the best path for everyone in terms of their communication preferences. We also knew in our gut that they were never going to respect our boundaries; with this or anything else in the future.Well, they didn’t like that we were no longer going to be working with them, likely felt a bit rejected, and their response was unprofessional.When someone responds in a way that makes it clear they can't hear the word "no" and aren't used to not getting their way with boundaries or otherwise, it further cements the fact that in these circumstances, parting ways is a healthy and necessary decision.
Remember:you will always be reinforcing your boundaries but it WILL get easier over time. Saying no is ok and is healthy. It does take effort to reinforce your boundaries, but it is SO worth it. Through implementing and enforcing healthy boundaries in our business relationships, we have found more peace, margin and sanity in our lives; you can, too!