Recently, Warren and I were at a friend’s house for brunch. The husband/wife duo clearly had words about something that happened before we arrived, as we could feel the tension. At one point, she told her husband to f—k off, and it wasn’t light teasing. I just about jumped out of my shoes! That is a hard boundary for me, personally and professionally.
Most of us talk about setting boundaries, but very few have defined boundaries we honor. Do you have boundaries for yourself personally as well as professionally?
In theory, I set work-life boundaries, but in practice, I’m not very good at following them. Sure, like you, I have the standard work boundary about “dangerous” conversations and oversharing my personal life with work colleagues (but you know I share a lot!). I do my best to honor my boundaries about working on the weekends, yet for the past four weekends, I’ve found myself on a plane, and I do my best work on a plane. Therefore, I wrote articles, responded to emails, designed some great PPT decks, and generally broke my boundaries about working on the weekend. For four consecutive weekends! So, let’s be transparent: I’m not always good at my boundaries either.
We know that we need boundaries to avoid burnout, feeling misused, overwhelmed, and ineffective work-life balance. We know they are not just words we use during our performance evaluation, yet are they often just empty words?
Do you have clearly defined boundaries? What are the limits and guidelines that you set for yourself in how people treat you? What is across the line for you, and how do you expect to be treated? We need to think about it before it happens.
In the example I shared above, I’m clear. If someone used those words to me, I would have no hesitancy in saying something. I am clear how I feel about that and exactly what I would do about it.
However, if you don’t set your boundaries, it is often a shock when someone crosses your blurry line, and you don’t know how to respond. When your boundaries are clear, you can be equally clear as what you would do if someone crossed them.
Warren and I discussed the situation on the way home, and we reaffirmed that it was a clear boundary violation for us.
How else do people cross that boundary for you? Is it words, insinuation, or recognition? What will you tolerate or look the other way for (and why?), and what is your hard line in the sand?
Consider your professional boundaries, such as work hours. Are you ever willing to work on the weekends? For most of us (me included), it is entirely situational, but what situations would you compromise your boundaries for?
The other night, we were watching a Hallmark Christmas movie. I confess I am a huge Hallmark movie junkie, and the Christmas ones are my favorite. Warren agreed to watch, although they are not his favorite at all! LOL.
The female lead was in love with an enlisted man. Their wedding had been scheduled the previous year, but something happened at the last minute (I missed that part of the movie), and the would-be groom served for an entire year. They were apart but maintained their relationship while he was stationed overseas.
The year passed, and he was coming home to be married at Christmas time. You know what is about to happen, and of course, a catastrophe occurred (an avalanche where people were stranded). The groom-to-be was on leave for his wedding and honeymoon. Only he called his captain to see what had happened and offered to postpone his wedding yet again to race back to the situation and help his team. Although his superior told him he didn’t have to do that, the groom-to-be felt that returning to his team was more important than his wedding just days away.
The gist of the story was that the bride was devastated that her wedding was once again postponed due to his job. Instead of being the victim, once again, she devised a plan for the wedding to be held on the side of the mountain at the avalanche site. She concluded that she didn’t need the wedding of her dreams and instead, she needed a ceremony so that she and her absent groom could start their life together as husband and wife. Still apart, but she would be a wife instead of a fiancée.
You can see why Warren hates these movies. I was livid! The groom crossed many boundaries, both personally and professionally, and I can only imagine the life they have together (or apart) as he clearly prioritized his job ahead of his family and wife.
Hard no. That wasn’t romantic to me at all. It was a hard violation on many levels. Needless to say, I wouldn’t agree to spend the rest of my life with someone who habitually put their job before their family. You could say he was patriotic; however, I would say he has his priorities wrong.
For him and us, we are not the only person at work who can do what we do. I’m not sure that returning to the avalanche hours later (or a day later) saved a life that wouldn’t have been saved by other people. In the same way, when you are giving up your personal time; it likely isn’t a make-it-or-break-it moment either. There are exceptions for us all, and we need to be clear on what those exceptions are and when we will cross a boundary we have set.
I am willing and able to pass my time on an airplane, working if I travel on the weekends or after-hours. If I am at home, you will rarely (if ever) find me in the office on weekends. I’m willing to keep my eyes on emails on my mobile phone, but I’m not likely to return an email on the weekend. I certainly wouldn’t postpone my wedding (or the wedding of a friend) for work (especially work that someone is able to do).