Setting Healthy Boundaries- Understanding Expectations (Part 2)

I will be referring quite a bit to our last post. If you didn't get a chance to read it, please take a moment to check it out here.

In setting healthy boundaries, we need to first understand expectations. To do this, we must learn to COMMUNICATE. Honestly, this may have been a better topic to blog first, but people have written whole books on it, so we will share more on communication again. For now I will say, the more we communicate with our boss, the better the working relationship will be. The more we assume, the easier it is for conflict to arise. Let's get really practical about this- I am talking about communicating everything from expectations (what are my hours?) to preferences (is a text at 11pm okay?) to family changes (we're having a baby) to personal challenges (**there is a limit to what you should share with your boss- I am not speaking about the intimate details of marital difficulties, but the overall struggles that affect your work responsibilities, like your health or the health of a child). 

As good as we can be at this, there is always room to learn and grow. From my wisdom teeth mishap, I clearly still have a lot to learn about communicating... But for the purpose of setting healthy boundaries, this post will specifically address communicating expectations.

I can't stress enough the importance of TALKING THROUGH what your boss expects of you AND what you expect this job to look like. If you don't communicate this, tension will form in those gaps between what you both WANT and what ACTUALLY IS. How can you set healthy boundaries if you don't even know what you are working to guard? In reference to Part 1, if your non-negotiable is their MUST, there is going to be a problem from the start. This is why asking questions is important.

But what is equally vital is realizing that expectations are not the "first meeting" conversation that is never to be brought up again. They change as seasons/roles/personalities/work relationship change, and therefore, we must be quick to reevaluate them. As our boss is entrusted with more, they may begin to expect/empower us with more responsibility. As their role transforms, our schedule may need to be adjusted. This is why communicating regularly about expectations is key. This is not a one time conversation, but an ongoing dialogue of what is working and what's not.

Let me be very quick to admit that this post is not an easy one for me to share. I find great value in clear communication, but I am no expert in this area. So these are just some working ideas of how we can keep that open dialogue of communication for the purpose of understanding expectations. (Though I hope one day I will, let me confess that I don't do all of these. But they are good ideas nonetheless): 


  • Regularly ask, "How are you doing? Anything I can help with?"
    • When we meet weekly about emails/calendar, we usually take the first five minutes to check in. Ask, "Has this been a good week? What did you like about your schedule? What could I do better to help you more?"
  • Not sure if your company has this, but a great opportunity to reevaluate expectations (and discuss boundaries) is at an annual staff evaluation/performance review. This is a chance to talk through our role & ask about any increased responsibilities or adjustments that need to be made
  • I may be overdoing it, ultimately the best way to discuss expectations is to ASK!! "What are your expectations of me (both spoken and assumed)? Is there anything I can take off your plate? Seems like you have a lot going on right now, how can I assist you better?" 
    • Side note for bosses: Tell us what really would help you more and areas we can better serve. Share what you like about our working relationship, and then offer some areas that we can improve. This is our job and we want to do it well!

ON OUR OWN (these aren't necessarily ways to communicate, but some creative ideas of how to exceed expectations)

  • Look ahead in their schedule. Think through what that day or week will look like for them. Is there anything we can do to help alleviate some stress? Should we adjust that meeting 15 minutes so they will have some breathing room in their day? 
    • Next Level: Once you have thought through the schedule, talk through it with them: Here's what's coming up for your week. Do you want me to be at that event? How can I best help you prepare? 
  • Remember what worked and what didn't. Once an expectation has been communicated, follow through with it (even if you have to adjust a boundary). Don't get bitter before you even attempt to live out that expectation. It may not be as difficult as you are making it. 
    • ie: I was asked to serve an hour earlier at some of our church services. While nervous about my kids in the morning, they adjusted way better than I anticipated and the change has been good for our family. Like new foods, let's give it a try before we declare we don't like it. 

How does this relate to boundaries? 

Once we understand what is expected of us (the landscape of our role), it is easy to set the boundaries (fence posts) that will bring freedom and joy to our every day. 

As expectations change, so will our boundaries need to adjust slightly. Remember that healthy boundaries are movable, life-giving, and are there to protect us AND give us space. I will have a sabbath, but that day of the week may change. If we have an evening event, family dinner may be a Chick-Fil-A picnic at church instead of around the dinner table. But because we have already set out the Big Rocks and Small Stones and Understand the Expectations, we are free to run safely and confidently.