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Ask SGO: How do we set healthy boundaries at work?


This video about setting boundaries at work was taken from our January 18, 2022, Ask SGO on LinkedIn Live. Follow us on LinkedIn and subscribe to our newsletter to find out more about upcoming LinkedIn Lives and other events. Learn more about the SGO team here!

Vienna DeGiacomo:
A big topic that’s been popping up everywhere, I’m seeing people talk about this all the time is about boundaries. 2022 seems like the year of boundaries. I fully support it, I want everyone to set some nice, healthy boundaries for themselves this year. I’d love to know what that looks like at work. How can an individual set boundaries at work, but also empower their teammates in supporting and setting boundaries for themselves and for others?

Rachel Sadler:
Once again, modeling that behavior, from a leadership perspective. Modeling that if we say the workday ends at whatever time, then I don’t answer the things until tomorrow unless it is a legitimate emergency. So if you say that, but then you’re texting someone at 9 p.m., or you’re emailing at 2 a.m., there’s this underlying, unspoken expectation that makes people, in particular, people like me, very anxious. So, if I’m looking at the TV and I see something from a manager come through, I think I have to answer that because I don’t want to be perceived as being disconnected. But if we say the day ends at 5 o’clock, well, at 9:01, I will acknowledge you about these things and we’ll talk about it.

And then once again, modeling your own boundaries, especially people, who have all of these rich lives outside of work, things that they want to take care of and do. I’ll get back to you tomorrow between the hours of whatever time, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Fatima Dainkeh:
I love good boundaries. Yes, Rachel! Yes, Vienna, for this question. Shoutout to our Co-CEO Rachel M., because I know she recently wrote a blog post about boundaries, so check that out. This is a shameless plug. But then also thinking about taking time off, right? So when I first got online today, I had just got back from vacation. Let me tell you, I’m a different human. I am healed, moisturized, and hydrated. Because DEI work is taxing. Most of us, even if you’re not doing DEI work, we are spending most of our lives at work. I used to say that to my nieces, you spend most of your time in school, so I’m not sure if what we’re doing in the home will actually create any changes in your life. And now as an adult, I’m like, we’re doing the same exact things. And so, plus one to everything Rachel said.

Take some time off and think about how you can model that with each other? At SGO, we’ve also been thinking about quarterly trips. Obviously that’s on the back burner now because of covid and because we want to make sure we’re safe, but hopefully when things are better, really thinking about how we can also collectively rest together. A lot of times, we think about care on an individualistic level, and as a workplace, especially for those of you who are within smaller teams- I know everyone might not be able to do this if you’re working at an international company or big company- but how do you do retreats? Are they actual retreats where you’re resting and not talking about work all the time? Instead, take time to get to know each other,  take time to rest so that you don’t have to take a vacation from the vacation. I don’t know if you know what that feels like, but that’s a real thing and it’s a lot when you’re left thinking, I need another week from the week that I just had. 

Another piece of this would be checking in with folks in terms of meeting times. A lot of us are working virtually, a lot of us might be parents, we might be caregivers. There might be so many things happening, so my 7 a.m. does not look like my colleague’s 7 a.m. because I have 500 things to do beforehand. So how do we set boundaries in that way, but then also create an environment and a workplace where people can name that and feel like, “oh, I’m not going to be reprimanded or punished for naming or setting those boundaries.”

Rachel Sadler:
For sure my 7 a.m. doesn’t look like your 7 a.m. Auntie’s in the bed at 7 a.m. And that leads me to talk about flexible work schedules. If you are in a place where you can have flexible work schedules, lean into that because some people might not operate well at 7 a.m.

Some of you do and that’s fantastic. But requiring someone like me to be on and poppin that early in the morning is not really going to be a good look.

And so can we embrace the time when I am my best self? When can I show up as the best Rachel I can be, and is that different from somebody else’s best time and can we honor that? I will set the boundary that these are the hours that I’m working, and if you work super late, fantastic, I will talk to you after 8 a.m. on the next day, when I am my best self.

We’re going to ask, “how can I bring my best self?” and honor that, instead of trying to force everybody to fit into the same mold that’s really problematic.


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