Work Boundaries: Say Goodbye to Super Woman Syndrome
Work Boundaries: Say Goodbye to Super Woman Syndrome

One month into my new job, I’m incredibly excited thinking about the positive inroads I’ll be able to make for my organization. To say that I’m energized, and ready-to-go is an understatement. At the same time – as a Type-A personality and recovering workaholic – I’m also doing my level best to calm the racehorse wanting to burst full-speed out the gate – knowing that my desire to “build Rome” is certainly not going to be happening in one day. These new beginnings are a good reminder for me, and I hope for you too, to remember the importance of healthy boundaries at work.

It’s natural for us to want to put our best foot forward in our jobs – especially for those of us in new positions – but it’s also important to be cognizant of our limits, and to set boundaries for what’s realistic and healthy!

I meet so many women, through my coaching practice and speaking engagements, that aspire to “Super Woman” status at work – consistently prioritizing work over self–care. They’re staying late and coming in early when it’s not necessarily expected or truly needed…skipping lunch because “there’s just not time for it”… staying sedentary at their desks because they’re “not going to budge until this report gets done”…and I can relate. There was a time when I was giving far more care and attention to my work and those around me than to myself…and I crashed and burned as a result.

We all have job expectations to be met, and I’m certainly not advocating that anybody bring herald trumpets into the company cafeteria and unfurl a scroll announcing your boundaries. What I am advocating for, however, is building in daily limits that demonstrate to yourself and your co-workers that your wellbeing is an important part of your ability to be successful. Here are five tips for setting boundaries around your work life:

  • Make getting eight hours of sleep at night a priority
  • Take regular lunch breaks during your work day
  • Get up from your desk at regular intervals to stretch
  • Leave at a reasonable time in the evening whenever possible
  • Pace yourself!

Keep in mind that personal boundaries are not about bucking the system at work. Every workplace has its own culture, and adapting to that culture can be key to success on the job. Rather, personal boundaries are about creating a system at work – one that combines self-respect with respect for your workplace. I’ve seen it time and again with my clients – when they started valuing their own wellbeing at work, their colleagues and co-workers became more supportive of their needs as well.

One client’s boss knew my client had started meditating during a portion of her lunch hour so saved questions until she got back rather than texting her a steady stream. Another client started making a more concerted effort to leave by 5:30pm each day. As a result, her staff began coming to her with questions and approvals well before 5pm instead of waiting until the last minute. As the saying goes, “you teach people how to treat you,” and that holds especially true when it comes to creating your boundaries at work.

Setting boundaries on the job, as in life, is about letting go of control and perfectionism – thinking we have to do “everything” or its all going to fall apart. It’s about knowing our ‘Yes’ and knowing our ‘No,’ and having the courage to stick to those guardrails we put into place. It’s about standing up for ourselves, and what we need in order to enjoy a more healthy, balanced life.