3 Ways To Set Boundaries With Your Employer

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When we asked Aerotek recruiters about setting workplace boundaries to help with work/life balance, what they told us sounded a lot like relationship advice.

Whether it’s with your boss or with a co-worker, it’s up to you to set your own boundaries that keep you comfortable and happy. Don’t expect your employer to read your mind or find your balance for you. Boundaries are what make relationships healthy, and what keep people from wallowing in a distrustful stew of discomfort, resentment and guilt.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are some approaches to work/life boundary-setting, courtesy of the career matchmakers at Aerotek:

Be honest and demand honesty in return

Setting boundaries can be scary. It opens up the possibility that the other party might disagree with you. But letting your fear keep you from being honest about what you need, or keep you from demanding that same honesty from others, will lead to future problems.

Aerotek Senior Professional Account Manager Morgan McCormick recalls a contractor’s success with setting boundaries as an exercise in fearless honesty.

“I recently placed a contractor who was looking to leave her position because she wanted to work part-time to spend more time with her young children,” she says.

“She put the schedule she wanted on the table, but also was flexible to make it work with the needs of the client. Because she was so transparent throughout the entire process, it made it easier for us to work with her on exactly what she needed to take care of her family.”

An important note: Being honest about what you need means being honest with yourself. Make sure you do a good self-appraisal, take your limitations into account, and don’t be afraid to make them known right up front. Doing so sets the tone for the relationship.

Practice active, clear and open communication

As important as honesty is for setting boundaries, communication is what makes boundaries work. Think of it like this: Honesty is how you decide where to put the fence, communication is what you do to maintain the fence’s integrity.

As Aerotek Senior Professional Recruiter Jackie Ross puts it, “The best tactic is to be up front and open in your communication with employers. What I’ve found is the more proactive and open you are, the better off you’ll be, and you’ll also be seen as a productive contributor.”

What does “active, clear, and open communication” actually look like?

First, it means doing your part to understand your employer’s policies. Does your employer offer flex-time or work from home options, and if so, what procedures are in place? What’s the story on vacation time accrual? If you don’t know or need clarification, ask. Don’t assume that your employer wants to keep it a secret.

Another way to make sure communication is active, clear, and open is to be proactive. Do you know you’ll need to take some time off? Let your employer know as soon in advance as you can. They’ll appreciate it, and being proactive reminds the other party to keep you in the loop whenever a development might affect you.

Be flexible with give and take

So you’ve been honest with yourself and your employer about where your boundaries are, and you’re communicating well to make sure those boundaries are maintained. What happens next?

Well, now you have to make sure you both hold up your end of the bargain. It’s a give and take.

Kate Keller, Senior Professional Strategic Delivery Manager at Aerotek says, “As long as you know the expectations, you can make sure that you are consistently meeting them, and not leaving anything hanging or unfinished. “

As long as you’re getting the expected amount of work done, Keller says, your work/life balance or hours spent in the office will rarely be an issue.

Get help

Any healthy relationship is build on trust and boundaries. If you’ve tried to set boundaries and had them routinely ignored, it might be time to look for new options. Aerotek recruiters are always happy to share opportunities in your area.

Aerotek recruiters Morgan McCormick, Jackie Ross, and Kate Keller contributed to this report.

Have you been able to set and maintain healthy boundaries in the workplace? Share your story with us on Facebook or Twitter, and visit our job board if you’re searching for a new job.