Parenting

How to Set Healthy Limits at Work


Back in college, I wrote for a five-day-a-week, award-winning campus newpaper. My skills were growing and I was earning a reputation as a solid reporter.

I was miserable.

If I wasn't in class, I was out inverviewing sources or toiling in the newsroom. I missed seeing my friends at the dorm, got little sleep and swigged Maalox to get through the afternoons. And still my desk editor pressured me to be more productive.

Then an adult advisor gave me an insight I've never forgotten:

AN ORGANIZATION WILL TAKE AND TAKE AS LONG AS YOU KEEP GIVING. IF YOU WANT LIMITS ON WHAT YOU GIVE, YOU HAVE TO SET THEM.

This insight has come to my rescue over and over again. It didn't matter what the organization was: a place of employment, a faith community, a volunteer group. Setting healthy boundaries on what I gave was MY job, and no organization would do it for me.

Not that it's easy. Setting limits can be scary, especially when your job is at stake. Workplaces vary widely in their responses to employees' attempts to set limits.

"The cold, hard reality is that you can't always do that where you are," says Linda Koch, a recruiter for Flexible Resources, Inc., of Stamford, Connecticut.

Having a strong track record as a valuable and accommodating employee helps.

In addition, experts say, you might:

--Put your proposal in writing.

--Be specific about what you want your new schedule to look like.

--Think like your boss. Show how you will meet goals and handle emergencies when your new limits go into effect.

--Support your proposal with business reasons rather than your personal reasons.

--Anticipate objections.

--Give your boss plenty of time to review your proposal.

You could even offer your proposal as an "experiment," Koch suggests.

The good news is that technology is allowing workers to keep up productivity with less face time. Meanwhile, employers are gradually learning that allowing employees greater flexibility boosts motivation and loyalty.

Back in college, I didn't have any strategies for setting limits. I just pushed through my fear, marched up to my desk editor and said I was going to go home every day by 4 PM.

PERIOD.

That conversation took every ounce of my strength. To my amazement, though, the sky didn't fall! I was fortunate to be taught a lesson that guides me to this day.

Everyone needs healthy limits. If you're giving too much, take at least one small step today to establish the limits that work for you.

(c) 2004 Norma Schmidt, Coach, LLC

Norma Schmidt, Coach, LLC, specializes in helping women who are both professionals and parents to create balance. She offers teleclasses, workshops and individual and group coaching. Norma publishes "The Balance Point," a free e-zine, every other Friday. Visit http://www.NormaSchmidt.com


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