Tips to Establish and Maintain Healthy Boundaries

There’s much talk about burnout lately, and with good reason. Studies show that job stress is by far the major source of anxiety for American adults and has escalated progressively over the past few decades. The employees who are generally the happiest and most productive, no matter the external circumstances, are those with firm boundaries.

Although setting healthy boundaries is a crucial part of life, it’s not easy for many of us. Establishing and maintaining boundaries—be they mental, emotional or physical—is a skill set and, like any skill, it needs to be developed. If you’re not used to setting limits, you might feel guilty or selfish when you first start out. Here are tips to help you set and stick to healthy boundaries to protect your time, energy and well-being.

1) Audit Your Existing Boundaries

Start by taking some time to examine your existing boundaries, or lack thereof, to help provide clarity around where you need to set different or stronger limits. Take note of when people or situations cause you stress and anxiety. If you find yourself feeling angry, resentful or guilty when you interact with certain colleagues or perform specific aspects of your job, that’s a red flag that you may need to set a firm boundary or communicate it more clearly.

2) Redefine Your Boundaries

Once you’ve examined your existing boundaries, it’s time to determine your new and improved boundaries and top priorities. Think about what needs to occur to best protect your time and general well-being. Consider your priorities both at and outside of work. Whether you’re trying to advance at work or just get through your to-do list by the end of the week, prioritize the tasks that will help you get there. This can help you become more aware of situations in which your existing boundaries are not working and allow you to discover how you can better allocate your time and energy.

3) Communicate Your Boundaries

Boundaries can vary greatly from person to person, so it’s important to set clear expectations and confidently communicate them with your team. Easy ways to better protect your time could include putting a note in your email signature stating the specific hours during which you answer emails and blocking off time on your calendar to ensure you can get to your top priorities.

4) Set Consequences

Once you communicate and start to stick to your established boundaries, don’t be surprised or disheartened if you find others initially respond negatively. This is usually a sign that your boundary is necessary and working effectively. Prep for these situations by visualizing your boundaries being crossed and imagine how you’ll react. Then, when a moment like that arises, you’ll be able to handle it rationally versus emotionally. When a boundary gets violated, address it immediately. Calmly reinforce your limits in the moment rather than wait.

5) Say “No”

Are you the type of person who says “yes” to every request at work, regardless of your existing workload and capacity to take on more? Learning to say “no” is a powerful skill that helps you enforce your boundaries and keep your goals a priority. Saying “no” can be a challenge for many of us because it seems negative—something that may bring harm to our career or alienate us from our colleagues—but “no” works in the opposite way. It allows for clarity and communicates your top priorities and commitments to others. If you say “yes” when you do not mean it, you will follow through with resentment, often leading to poor work quality, weakened relationships with colleagues, and feelings of stress and overwhelm.

Setting healthy boundaries that are right for you will help define your individuality and show others situations for which you will and will not hold yourself responsible. Remember that it’s equally important to respect the boundaries that others have set for themselves. Take small steps to set and maintain boundaries and respect the boundaries of others by communicating clearly and consistently, gaining clarity for yourself and holding firm to your areas of focus. The process will become easier and easier as you practice these skills.

Find resources below to get you started, and know there are many additional services available to you as an MSU employee if you’d like further assistance, including Organization and Professional Development, the WorkLife Office, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and Health4U

Upcoming OPD Courses (Live, Online Format)

Everything DiSC: Behavior Styles at Work | September 22

Identify and Maximize Your Strengths | October 28

The Power of Habit | October 20

SourceLive Articles

Burnout: How to Avoid It and What to Do if You’re Experiencing It

Unplugged: How to Disconnect from Work and Enjoy Your Vacation

Sources

https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecastrillon/2019/07/18/10-ways-to-set-healthy-boundaries-at-work/?sh=4628a9267497

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2021/04/06/how-to-set-professional-boundaries-to-protect-your-time/?sh=2890f032e36b

https://mint.intuit.com/blog/early-career/setting-boundaries-at-work/

https://positivepsychology.com/great-self-care-setting-healthy-boundaries/

Motivational Monday Round-Up

During these times of remote work, it can be hard to find motivation, especially after a holiday weekend. If you are one of the many struggling to get a bit of pep in your step this week, you are in luck as Todd Bradley, Senior Learning and Organization Development Specialist in HR Organization and Professional Development, is back with more Motivational Monday videos! Designed to encourage you during a time with many stressors and unknowns, Todd’s Motivational Monday videos provide quick and easy inspiration to start your day off right or get you back on track during a mid-afternoon slump.

Motivational Monday: Motivational Enhancement

To enhance motivation, Todd explores the stages of change and transition.

Motivational Monday: Maximizing the Spartan Experience

Todd shares his tips on how to positively maximize the Spartan Experience during these times of great challenges.

Motivational Monday: Enhanced Communication

Todd outlines how to ask the important questions to improve communication in the work place.

Visit the MSU HR YouTube channel to view additional Motivational Monday videos as they’re posted. You may also want to check out Todd’s previous videos in May’s Motivational Monday Round-Up.

Communicate with Impact: Tips for Leaders

Written by Jennie Yelvington, MSW, ACSW, Program Manager for HR Organization and Professional Development.

Communicating effectively is always an important skill for leaders to demonstrate, but in this time of massive, rapid change it is more critical than ever. The basics, such as clarity, transparency, and being intentional about what you want to convey, all hold true. Authenticity, along with displaying empathy and compassion, will boost the impact of anything you communicate. Here are a few additional pointers that can make a difference:

Consider Your Audience

Executives generally get information first and the amount people know about high levels decisions tends to decrease the further down the hierarchy their position lands. Before sharing information with staff, think about what they have been briefed on so far and start from there. Remember that issues you have been dealing with for some time may be new to others, and they may need a minute to work through their reaction. Also, provide information (if able) regarding what the journey has been to get to that decision. Gaps in communication tend to fuel distrust and make it difficult for employees to take needed action; it’s hard to fix what you don’t understand.

Provide Translation

As a leader, it is important to share (nonconfidential) information you receive that would help your employees better understand the broader context of what is happening within the university. Having this understanding can help people make the sacrifices and changes needed with less resistance. Aside from being insulting, the “because I said so” approach doesn’t help people move forward. So, for example, forwarding that DDC email can be very useful; but that isn’t enough. It is also important to explain how that information relates to your employees. We have been so decentralized that often people see themselves in the vacuum of their unit or even their particular job. Drawing the lines between high-level decisions and their work helps people to understand the broader system and how their role fits. They still may not like decisions that are made, but it is easier to accept what you understand.

Once isn’t Enough

Communications specialists can affirm that if you truly want something to stick, you must repeat the message multiple times, in multiple ways. Leaders need to heed this lesson. If something is important, sending one email isn’t enough. People are inundated with information, so if you want something to stand out make sure you utilize multiple avenues. Send that email, but also weave it into staff meetings, clarify understanding in one-on-one’s, and tie it to other initiatives. Also, if it is important, make sure you utilize language that reflects that it is a priority, and why it matters.

Watch Out for Bias

Bias awareness is always important, and in this time of video conferencing, the potential pitfalls are numerous. While it is common to hear that we are “all in this together,” individual experiences during the pandemic can be vastly different. Socio-economic differences are highlighted in video (unless backgrounds are used), people may be experiencing grief due to sick or deceased loved ones, others may be completely alone and struggle when they hear coworkers discuss family fun. In a recent MSUToday article, MSU professor Amy Bonomi suggests we “approach conversations with sensitivity to differences. Instead of opening with the typical “tell us what your lives are like during shelter in place,” consider framing a question around what participants are noticing about communities around them.”  She also recommends challenging microaggressions. “This can be done by naming microaggressions on the spot or addressing them privately. It is important to share how the microaggression affected you and may have affected others and to provide tools for improving skills.”

Clarify Expectations

When you share information, be sure to clarify if action is needed, and if so by whom and when. Don’t expect people to read your mind, or that they will be clear on exactly what they are empowered to do in response to a need. Also, consider the extent of the need. Is this a simple action? Is it a full-blown project that needs to be managed? If so, what else do people need to know? Is there a budget? Are adequate resources available? Are there deadlines? Will other stakeholders potentially be impacted? Finally, think about whether your staff members currently have the skills needed to be successful. Are they experienced with project management? Are they capable and willing to handle potentially difficult conversations? Many skill-building resources are available at no cost through elevateU and you can reach out to Organization & Professional Development (prodev@hr.msu.edu) for help with development planning.

Emphasize Shared Responsibility

Leaders have a responsibility to share information and communicate effectively, and they should make it clear that employees also have a responsibility to seek information and stay informed. Most have internet access and can be expected to check email at set intervals, read updates from President Stanley and other executives, and periodically check the MSU 2019 Novel Coronovirus site for updates. This shared responsibility allows all to be more prepared for coming changes and increase the likelihood of innovative responses from every level of the organization. Never write anyone off regarding their ability to contribute meaningful options for addressing the issues we face.

There are many effective strategies that leaders and teams across campus have been using to stay on top of changes in this challenging time including things like daily huddles, weekly video conferencing, virtual coffee hours to strengthen relationships, and utilizing Spartan365 to chat, meet, and share content. Leaders are also encouraged to network across the university to share best practices and new ideas. One of the great things about working at this university is that we have many opportunities for shared learning and support. Together, we can do this.

Start the New Academic Year with a Professional Development Course!

Welcome to a new academic year at MSU! Organization and Professional Development (OPD) is offering new courses this fall to help you reach your personal and professional development goals.

NEW Upcoming Courses:

Managing Meetings – Tuesday, October 15
With company resources tighter than ever, and staff and management busier than ever, frivolous meetings are simply not an option. Yet they continue to occur more often than ever. And too many unproductive, wasteful meetings create a major drag on staff morale and motivation, thus affecting productivity, turnover, and the corporate “bottom line”. And, if you are the organizer or leader of meetings, you simply cannot afford to look unprofessional when you are “on stage” in a competitive or political environment. Use this program to better plan, lead, and follow through on your meetings and enhance team productivity, coordination, and cohesion.

Communication Strategies for Supervisors – Thursday, October 24
One of the non-negotiables for successful leadership is being an effective communicator. Many leaders believe they do communicate effectively, but what most leaders do not understand about communicating with their team is that it is not just about what is said. To lead successfully today, leaders must be able to persuade, inspire, listen, articulate the big picture, and create teams of people who buy into and trust the sender.

Manager as Coach – Thursday, October 24
Successful managers today understand the importance of coaching in the workplace to improve productivity, loyalty, and results. Instead of telling team members what to do, or just expecting them to perform, it is important to guide, discuss and encourage – in other words, coach.

Presentation Skills 101 – Wednesday, November 20
You may have a great deal of knowledge or important information to share, but if your presentation is not engaging, you may lose your audience and opportunity for influence. Whether you’re a training professional, an executive, a manager who leads meetings, or anyone who needs to communicate clearly to more than one person at a time, this workshop will show you strategies to create and deliver effective presentations with confidence and enthusiasm.

Support staff should note that their Educational Assistance benefit resets with the fall semester – be sure to use these funds to help cover costs for any registration fees.

You can find all current OPD courses on the HR website. Sign-up through the EBS Portal. Questions? Contact HR Solutions Center at SolutionsCenter@hr.msu.edu or 517-353-4434.