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Professional Boundaries: Are Yours In Jeopardy?

Professional Boundaries: Are Yours In Jeopardy?

I’m not exactly certain why, but it seems as if my professional boundaries have gotten quite a workout lately trying to stay intact. In my quest to find a way to deal with this appropriately, I discovered that a lot of times boundaries can get crossed almost without you knowing. So, my question to you is: Are your professional boundaries in jeopardy—perhaps without you even realizing it?

Signs Your Boundaries May Be in Jeopardy

Now, you may be shaking your head no while thinking that you would surely know if employees, suppliers, business partners, clients, or anyone else in your small business network was trying to cross your boundaries. However, this isn’t always the case. In fact, the following are signs that your professional boundaries could be in jeopardy of being violated, whether you realize it or not:

  • You strive to be a friendly employer. If you are the kind of boss that tries to be friendly to all of your employees and contractors all of the time, then one of them may try to take advantage of this by pushing your boundaries to see how far your friendliness will go.
  • You’re uncomfortable with confrontation. The more the idea of confrontation makes you sweat, the more likely it is that your boundaries will be violated solely because you wanted to avoid conflict and “not start any problems.”
  • You don’t feel right saying no. When you are a yes person, then you are seriously jeopardizing your boundaries. As the old saying goes, “Give some people an inch and they will take a mile,” which can be true in business as much as it is in your personal life.
  • People at work continuously share too much information with you. Whether it is an employee, a supplier, or someone else that you work with daily, if they are willing to share a lot of personal information with you, just taking part in the conversation could open the door to future boundary issues.

Do any of these sound familiar? If so, not to worry. There are things you can do to start enforcing your boundaries so that you don’t run into problems later.

Tips for Enforcing Your Professional Boundaries

First and foremost, don’t feel guilty about setting up and protecting your professional boundaries. You have the absolute right to keep your personal life private and to not give more than you are willing. And if someone tries to cross them, then you have a duty to yourself to not let it happen. If you don’t, you are only potentially hurting yourself, your family, and your business, and that is not a position you want to be in.

The second thing to remember is something that I was taught early on in my law enforcement career: Always treat others with respect and courtesy, until they ask you not to. In other words, you should always respond with care and compassion, but if the other person doesn’t have the same consideration, then you have every right to switch your niceness off.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you go crazy and rant and rave, or anything like that. I’m just saying that you don’t have to sit back and take someone else’s antics. For instance, if it is an employee who becomes out of line, you may have to consider letting him or her go. If it is a supplier who doesn’t like to hear the word no, then you may have to find someone else to do business with.

According to an article written by Dr. Susan Biali, author of Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, and More Passionate You, it is important to realize that you will likely be met with anger when you try to enforce your boundaries. Maybe the person is mad at you; maybe they are mad at themselves. Either way, they are probably going to be mad.

If this happens in your situation, Dr. Biali suggests that you let it go. In other words, don’t try to keep the peace or make everything all better. To do so would make your boundaries weaker, not stronger, and potentially make the problem worse.

The more you protect your boundaries, the easier it is to keep business “just business.” I don’t know about you, but that works just fine for me!

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by Christina DeBusk // Freelance writer, author, and small business consultant committed to helping entrepreneurs achieve higher levels of success.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.