On Setting Boundaries in Business — Don’t Commit Energetic Suicide!

Small Business

Setting boundaries in business is huge! Often, it’s the most efficient people who take on the most, get paid the least, complain about how they’re so stressed out and overburdened, but get taken advantage of the most. On a deeper level, it’s a form of martyrdom. In business, it’s like energetic suicide.

It’s the worst kind of giving. The kind where you’re giving more of yourself as an employer, employee, client or contractor than you feel comfortable with, and knowing it may never be rectified. You’re hurting yourself more than anyone and what’s worse, you know it.

In relationships of all kinds, we learn to mold our behaviors to different scenarios and environments. This is where, developmentally, we test our own limits and capacities to grow and challenge ourselves, but we also test the boundaries of others. And this becomes the game that we play for the rest of our lives—testing our own boundaries and those of others.

But if we are to be at all successful at this, we must understand the fine art of setting boundaries in business, first, for ourselves.

First: Set Boundaries For Yourself

These boundaries are clear definitions of what we will or will not accept from those around us. They exist in our personal and professional lives, with the understanding that we have the capacity to thrive when we hold ourselves and others accountable at a higher level.

When we do not accept anything but strength and intelligence from ourselves, then we have a better shot at holding others accountable as well. In this way, we create boundaries for greatness to flourish in controlled environments so that we can be uplifted and focused as much as possible. In turn, we give ourselves opportunities to be as successful as possible at anything that we might undertake.

Okay, so this might all sound like a bunch of hogwash, but how many times have you been tasked to do something well below your pay grade? Or well above it without due compensation? How often have you let someone get away with not showing up with the right change when invoice time comes around? How often are you consistently on time and someone else is always late? How much do you take on more work than you can just because you can do it faster and better than someone else? And because it’s easier to just do it yourself, rather than instructing someone else in how it’s done?

These are all common occurrences and they all have to do with not setting boundaries in business.

Here’s the thing: if you give most folks an inch, they’ll take a mile. So don’t give anybody any inches, unless there is a matching of effort that immediately balances a scenario.

Unfortunately though, there are a lot of martyrs out there in middle management. Come on, there have even been situation comedies based upon the silliness that regularly plays out in corporations and organizations of all sizes.

Ridiculously common scenario 1: Middle Manager Smith loses staff (probably due to a lack of setting boundaries in business) and then is tasked with running the department with a fraction of what it needs to survive. He gets lots of responsibility, but no pay increase because he’s too afraid of losing his job and wants to please everyone. Meanwhile, Smith’s Corporation continues to take advantage of him simply because they know that they can. He’s done nothing to suggest he would do otherwise.

They’re grateful for him, because he’s a very efficient worker. It’s why they kept him after testing his non-existent boundaries. They know that they can play pile-on and everything will still be satisfactory, if not more profitable, due to the immediate decline in overhead through Smith’s staff reduction.

Ridiculously common scenario 2: Beginner Business Owner starts partnership with a seemingly great New Client. The client is hip, interesting, and provides lots of excitement to a growing client list. Both are growing and they support each other in their businesses. But Beginner Business Owner realizes that New Client is not completing his end of the deal and is simply testing boundaries to see what can be taken without much friction. Months of talk, time, and even a seemingly fluid working dynamic is in place, but when it comes to ponying up the actions behind the words in an even and balanced fashion, it just ain’t happenin’. Shoot.

Ridiculously common scenario 3: The “I’ll just do it” syndrome. There are five team members sitting at a table and there are simply too many things to do with too few people to do them. Two of the five take on twice as much work as the other three combined. Because they are faster, more efficient and better at the tasks at hand. The two who are doing the majority of the work are being paid 15% less than the other three.

Because the first two have not set professional boundaries in how they will work respective to how they are financially valued.

See, the thing is, in a capitalist society, no one is doing any selfless deeds. Everything that is done has a dollar sign next to it and the smartest people in business do not forget that for a moment. Remember: Bad Asses Don’t Work for Free.

Part of defining your own boundaries, whether it is professionally or personally, is valuing yourself in what you do and the time that it takes you to do it. It’s not just taking someone’s offer. It’s ensuring that it works for you, and if it doesn’t, then you simply do not accept it.

Think about it. When you have offered something to someone, in whatever environment you are working within, and that someone has rejected it because it’s not good enough, often you are presented with a counter offer. And often an accord can be found.

The most efficient people in business are those that know their own limits, know their value and quality, and know how to find the resources that are necessary to accomplish greatness. And these people are unapologetic for requiring those around them to step up to the plate. It just makes everybody better.

Setting Boundaries in Business Checklist:

1. It all starts with knowing and communicating your limits.

You aren’t going to be good for anything if you aren’t on top of your game. You either started your business or got awarded your position by being on top of your game. So now you gotta stay there. How are you going to do it?

2. Create your own structure, don’t adapt to someone else’s, even if you are in Middle Management!
A lot of mistakes are made by hoping that you’ll be able to make something work rather than knowing that you’re going to do it just as you know you’re going to change your underwear again tomorrow. You are in control of your workload, your energy, your time, and the structure YOU have created for YOU to work within.

No one can dictate your limits or capacities to you. Only you can decide that and ultimately it changes on a moment-by-moment basis. So not only do you have to create your structure, but you have to know your weaknesses well enough that you ensure your own growth by knowingly creating built-in challenges for yourself.

This is no easy task, as it requires us all to be present with ourselves, instead of not trying to control everything else.

3. Be honest and know that your mindset will shift.

People who are best at setting boundaries in business, with the most well-defined boundaries are often the most wonderful and compassionate people. They are honest with themselves; therefore, they can be honest and accepting of others. These folks are rare, but they exist. And the best business people know that everything is in flux, so being able to cope and roll with punches is absolutely necessary.

4. It’s not about perfection.

We can’t plan for everything, but we absolutely can anticipate punches to come along occasionally. And ultimately, it’s not about WHAT happens, it’s about how we deal with it when it comes our way. So in this way, we need to be cognizant of ourselves and the environment that we are in enough to be firm in determining how we operate within those different scenarios and structures.

Ultimately, knowing whether or not the environment you have created or chosen is supportive of your boundaries is imperative to all of this. We are all ultimately in control of what we do or do not allow ourselves to engage in and we all have choices. In business, the best way to increase the value and bottom line is to ensure that boundaries are in place to uphold this quality.

And the best way to establish longevity, reputation, trust, and positive brand awareness is to produce genuine quality. Here’s to more of that!

If I can assist you in setting boundaries in business and generating more value for your clients by getting content marketing off of your desk, let’s chat!

Photo credit: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo