Givers have to set limits, because takers rarely do.
–Irma Kurtz, Cosmopolitan
As a successful leader, you have to make tough decisions and communicate clearly. Typically it is easier to tell others what you want them to do than what you don’t want them to do. In other words, it is much more difﬁcult to say NO and put your foot down.
If others are disrupting your ﬂow, disrespecting you and your opinion, or are taking advantage of you in any way, read on.
You are busy all day and don’t really get a break. You ﬁnd yourself in back-to-back meetings and you don’t get to the actual work you need to do, thinking ahead, planning and reﬂecting. Instead you ﬁnish your work in the evening or over the weekend. You feel as if you are working 24/7. You are over scheduled.
You are most likely an Over Promiser. You take on way more than you need to. You ﬁnd it almost impossible to say NO when someone asks you to take on another project. At work you say yes to everything out of fear of losing the job or the next promotion or that everything might unravel. At home you are taking on another volunteer position or you are getting resentful that you have to do it all (laundry, dishes, trips to the grocery store). As an Over Promiser, you don’t think you are allowed to change your mind once you have agreed to do something.
You don’t want to rock the boat. Even though you disagree with others, you don’t want to upset them so you avoid conﬂict as best as you can. You get frustrated when people disrespect you and what you have to offer. It feels as if people tend to walk all over you. You may be a Perpetual Pleaser.
As a Perpetual Pleaser you tend to be very sensitive and don’t like having others upset with you (for whatever reason). You want everyone to be happy. As much as you want to please others, you become resentful when others take advantage of you, your skills and your time.
Others are just not doing it right. Any time you delegate you are not happy with the results you get in return. You have high standards and others just don’t live up to them. Therefore, you end up doing it all yourself, getting swamped in the process. Could you be a Perfectionist?
As a Perfectionist you live to create the image of perfection. This is the image you want others to have of you and the image you want to have of yourself. You know how to handle everything; you just don’t have enough hours in the day. You ﬁnd it difﬁcult to admit to anyone that you need help and you ﬁnd it even more difﬁcult to ask for help. You don’t believe others can do it as well as you do and you fear the damage this might do to your reputation. Consequently, you won’t let go. Instead you do it all yourself.
The effect on you in all three scenarios is the same: you feel overworked, not appreciated and frustrated that you have to do it all. It feels as if others are not cooperating with you. Fortunately, there is a way to overcome all of this.
You are not at the mercy of others. What’s missing is proper boundary setting. Others don’t know where you draw the line. It’s time to let people know that this is as far as you allow them to go. How do you do this without upsetting everyone and without damaging your reputation?
Here are the ﬁve steps to effectively set boundaries to give you peace of mind and better control of your professional and personal life:
1) Clearly identify your boundaries and know when they are being challenged or overstepped. Ask yourself, what speciﬁc behavior is causing you discomfort? Is it reasonable to expect the behavior to stop? Is it an issue from the past? If so, deal with it. Start setting the boundary.
2) Inform the offending person about the behavior you ﬁnd unacceptable and ask them to stop. Don’t expect them to be aware of what their action is doing to you, because they aren’t. You have to tell them. They can’t read your mind. Don’t bring the subject up in the middle of an argument. Pick a time when it can be discussed very matter-of-factly. For example, if you want meetings to start on time, say that you expect the meeting to start promptly.
3) State the consequence of their behavior if they don’t stop. For example, you will not wait for late-comers to start the meeting. They might miss out on important information. Without stating the consequence, you are simply nagging, which will waste your time by having to do it over and over again. And you will not get what you want. Make sure you are willing to deliver the consequence, and make it situation appropriate.
4) Remind them once if the behavior occurs again. They might not be used to you making requests in an assertive manner. Because you are in control, there is no need to get angry. Be ﬁrm.
5) If the behavior continues, follow through with the consequence. Beware of empty threats. They are consequences you are not willing to enforce. Your children are excellent at testing you on this one. If you don’t follow through on the consequence, you have lost the battle. Learning to set appropriate boundaries is imperative for leaders. It might feel like a dance and it is. However, boundary setting is like training a muscle. Muscle memory will take over after a while and it will become automatic.
Who is overstepping a boundary in your life?