Over the last week, I have been writing about this topic (at the request of a friend and assistant), and the more I write, the more I realize there is a lot to say- so expect more than one post on it. Over the next few days, let's talk through this common question: How do I set healthy boundaries? (As you read, please comment with further questions, practical ideas, and your how to's-- this is a conversation!)
Honestly, this is a topic that I constantly work on and one that changes with each new season- the boundaries you set when single will need to be adjusted when you get married, tweaked again with each child, and even reevaluated with unexpected changes in your life/health. But here are some things to consider as we continue to learn and grow in this are together:
BIG ROCK BOUNDARIES- the keystone items that really need to be in place
- Make sure that your marriage and home are healthy. This goes without saying, but as assistants, we can tend to become workaholics. Yes, our spouses need to understand the dynamics of our job, but let's not allow that to be an excuse. We need to always make sure our spouse is first priority. Ask them how they feel- Are they consistently waiting on you? Do they feel they are getting your leftovers or your very best attention? When you are with them, be fully present.
- Schedule times for devotion and working out (and meals- you have got to make time to eat!). Our physical and spiritual health will directly affect how well we can serve others. It is good to have these times set and regular. (This is a definite challenge for me in this season... but I am working on it)
- If you and your boss are opposite genders, be keenly aware of the time that you spend communicating outside of the office and the content of that conversation. You most likely will need to text before or after hours, but guard how early or late that is (and how often). As for content, one way I guard this is to do my best to send any personal topics as a group text to both my boss AND his wife.
- This leads directly to the fact that it is important to know your boss's spouse WELL. They need to feel comfortable with you and have an open relationship to speak with you about anything. I am blessed that my boss's wife and I are close friends and she has authority and access into my life.
- Watch what you are posting (and reading) on social media. We represent our bosses, our organization, and the Lord. And what we share/read/comment on will reflect all of them. Remember what we let into our heart, we let into our life!
- Have accountability. We need to make sure we have people (other than our spouse) who will ask us the tough questions and challenge us to be better. They are the ones who help us stay humble when we are proud and give us encouragement when we feel like giving up.
STONES to SET- these are more conversation topics for you (and your spouse) and your boss to discuss:
What are the non-negotiables? (these are your personal core values or areas for your boss to be aware of)
Personal example: Family Dinner is a window of time that I really do my best to guard at all costs. In this season (I try not to make absolute statements of my parenting because I don't know what's ahead- my kids aren't in school yet or have sports- but for now), we have family dinner together almost every night from 6-6:45pm. I may check my phone, but unless it's URGENT I will wait to reply.* Sabbath is another one I am working on becoming a non-negotiable. I really want to do my best to honor a day with the Lord and my family. On this day (strategically scheduled as the same day as my boss) we try our best not to communicate about work. Finally, texting while driving (especially when my kids are in the car). This is something I am really trying to make a reality. No text is worth that risk.
What are difficult times for you? (these are times that you need some grace if you don't answer/respond immediately)
Personal Example: With two young kids, getting out the door in the morning (from 8:30-9:07) and at the end of their day (5:30-bedtime/8:00) can be crazy. These are times that I WILL answer a call or text and take care of anything I can do, but my boss is aware there may be a rowdy toddler in the background.
Are there any NO MATTER WHATS? (these are MUST priorities/expectations of your boss)
Personal Example: Working at a church (or I guess this really should be the case no matter where you work), people truly matter. My boss is a pastor with a genuine heart for people. He and his wife care for the hurting and want to make sure that we do everything we can to let people know they are loved by God and matter to us. So when it comes to those who are hurting, my greatest failure would be to overlook a cry from someone needing help. No matter what time of day this is (and let me be honest in saying that pain is never at a "convenient" time), my pastor expects me to be available (and I consider this my greatest honor) to call, visit, pray with, comfort, and see how we can serve individuals and families in need. This is MY MUST.
How much do you want to know? (They want to know if we are sick, but PMS may be TMI)
Personal (failure) example: I really want to be as low maintenance as I can for my leader, but in doing so I sometimes don't make him aware of things going on in my life that would be good to know. One example is that I scheduled to get my wisdom teeth out when he went on vacation. I didn't mention it and honestly forgot about it until I was turning in my sick leave form, but texted him (and his wife) to let them know. They were glad I told them so they could pray for me and have it on their radar. Be careful not to so compartmentalize your life that you don't tell your boss things that he may want to be aware of. Your leader values who you are as a person more than what you can do for the organization.
Anything else that we need to talk through when it comes to boundaries? Things to take note of?
Personal example: this is less of a conversation topic and more something to consider. I do my best to be aware when my boss is meeting with someone, out for dinner, or at a family event and avoid texting him unless absolutely necessary.
Your turn: What are some BIG ROCKS or STONES YOU SET to maintain healthy boundaries in your job?
BONUS TIP: Consider taking your vacation when they are on vacation (ask your boss about this. He may prefer you to be in the office representing him), but this can be a great way to really unplug because they are unplugging too.