Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself: Maintaining Healthy Workplace Boundaries

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There is an old saying that good fences make good neighbors. It is an adage that reminds us that boundaries are important. Sure we understand this concept when it comes to our physical property, but we should apply the same principle to our professional and personal lives as well.

Maintaining healthy boundaries protects our families, the integrity of our work, and our coworkers. There are often moments when we are tempted to mix business with pleasure or take advantage of a work resource to enrich ourselves. When we are faced with these situations, we need to check ourselves before we wreck all that we hold dear and have worked hard to accomplish.

Each time we cross a boundary in our professional role or at work, we do damage, even if our actions are initially well-intentioned. Imagine a beautiful new garden separated from foot traffic by a fence. What if something blocks the footpath and people are forced to hop the fence and walk through the garden. The new garden will be trampled and damaged even though the people did not intend to do harm. Crossing boundaries, no matter how you justify it, has consequences.

If you don’t want to wreck your career, be mindful of these workplace boundaries:

Financial Boundaries

If you have expense accounts or access to corporate funds, always adhere to the guidelines and procedures. Don’t charge those personal items to your business expenses no matter how much you think you deserve it. This isn’t your personal spending account.

Social Media and Technology Boundaries

Watch what you say on social media and be very careful when online at work. Don’t go to sites that you are not supposed to access. Employers can and will fire you based on how you behave online.

Authority Boundaries

If you are a supervisor, you have power and influence. Don’t abuse this power to curry illegal/unethical benefits or in particular sexual favors. Subordinates may feel obligated to say, “yes” out of fear or in the expectation of a quid pro quo. Abuse of power never turns out well. 

Dating Boundaries

Dating or other romantic liaisons in the workplace can be tricky even when employees are equal. Psychology Today has 9 Questions you Should Ask Before Starting a Workplace Romance. If you decide to date someone at work, make sure you inform your HR department. But never date one of your subordinates. Not only is it a bad idea, but it could also lead to a lawsuit if things go awry.

Work/Life Boundaries

The use of technology has made it easy for us to stay connected to our jobs 24/7. It is important to set boundaries that allow you to have uninterrupted personal time.Have clear times when you don’t answer calls or emails from work. Have dinner on a regular basis with family or friends. Unplug and take some time daily to blow off some steam.

At the end of the day, good fences do make good neighbors, and healthy boundaries lead to healthy relationships. We need not only to understand the professional boundaries of our workplace, but we should consider the personal boundaries of those we work with. Good, clear, and honest communication will help preserve relationships and keep us in check.

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