Yes, You Can Have Boundaries At Work

I’m here to tell you that yes, you can have boundaries at work.

Now you might be thinking, “Sure Robert, you can have boundaries. But the industry I work in requires crazy hours and if I don’t work those hours I’m not going to get ahead.”

I hear you. Trust me – I hear you.

I’ve been working in the tech industry for more than 22 years (yeah, I’m old). Tech is legendary for making you sign away your life and non-work relationships to help launch startups and rake in tons of cash for large corporations. I remember hearing the team that worked on President Obama’s first campaign brag to a large audience how they had a drawer full of Red Bull, sugary treats, and were fed a a steady diet of coffee; they even showed us a pic. They pulled insane hours and had no free time. The audience thought they were gods.

Fast forward to when I worked at Walmart Labs…

When I started I was pulling 12 hour days on the regular, and on the weekends I’d “sneak” in a little work while at home. I did that along with being married and having two young children. Needless to say I’d come home tired and thinking about all the stuff I had to do the next day. And boy did that work. That year I got the best review possible.

One year in I told my (then) wife I wanted a divorce. A month after that I moved out and into my own place. While my divorce will be the topic of many other blog posts, I’ll just say it was very contentious and emotionally draining. My performance at work tanked due to the state of emotional exhaustion I found myself in.

It was during this time that I started learning about boundaries. Yes, that’s right, I didn’t even know what a boundary was until I was 41 šŸ¤¦ā€ā™‚ļø.

I needed some distance from work rather than it being all consuming. I needed time to work with a coach and a therapist. I needed time to take walks and do other things to take care of myself.

I was scared, scared as hell of what it might mean for my job if I started putting boundaries in place. How would my employer respond? Would I miss out on promotions? Would I get fired?

I started small.

I began by not responding to emails or Slack messages after a certain time each night. When that went well and the world didn’t end (and I wasn’t fired), I wouldn’t open Slack or email until I got to work (I had been sending messages during my commute, when I was driving).

While I kept up a pretty good game face at work, being my happy-go-lucky outgoing self, I couldn’t keep up my previous performance. I had to have a hard conversation with my manager about the emotional toll the divorce was taking. Thankfully my manager was supportive and changed her expectations of my work output.

Thanks to boundaries, the major downward spiral I was experiencing slowed enough for me to take a breath and recapture some of my time.

So, if you need to recapture some of your time, and, let’s be honest, your mental stability, boundaries need to become your thing.

I recommend you pick up Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover Tawwab, a relationship and boundaries expert. Nedra’s book will help you learn how to establish healthy boundaries in many areas of your life.

If you have a more specific question though drop us a note.