Boundaries & Work

Boundaries & Work

Photo by Erin Larson on Unsplash

In a breath of fresh air and good news, LinkedIn published, “New job? Don’t wait to set boundaries,” which you can find here:

This sort of thing is admittedly easier when you freelance or work for yourself. The boundaries are automatically a bit clearer when you are NOT a W2 employee of a company but even so, you must still be transparent and firm about your rules of engagement.

In the blurb, editor Gianna Prudente writes:

“When you start a new job, setting boundaries from day one is important. Failing to do so, in an effort to ‘prove yourself,’ can leave you exhausted and spread thin, writes executive coach Melody Wilding in Harvard Business Review. To establish healthy boundaries, Wilding suggests considering your work style and personal preferences, such as what type of work you enjoy doing the most and when you need to log off. Once identified, then proactively communicate your boundaries with your team.”

I definitely agree that you need to establish boundaries from the get-go. Trying to establish boundaries later is trickier than setting the rules of engagement from the beginning.

The HBR article that LinkedIn references can be found here:

Their TL;DR summary reads:

“Failing to set boundaries early on in a new job is not only exhausting, but it also traps you into high expectations that you need to continually live up to, which can be demoralizing and unsustainable. The author offers strategies on how to set healthy limits in the first days of a new job so that you can balance your own needs and make a good impression in the process: 1) identify what’s driving you, 2) consider the upside, 3) articulate and share your personal preferences, 4) apply your energy strategically, and 5) create and follow through on new habits.”

Some companies want to squeeze blood from a stone. No matter how hard you work or how much you produce, it’s never enough. Once you hit a target, it gets changed. Finally the targets become so absurdly high, you’ll never get there and it becomes an exercise in futility.

Even though I’ve written before about the theater of work and corporate pantomime, you don’t have to be an actor to understand. I’m reminded of a story about faces in your pocket:

“Then Depp, who has always had a loyal cult of fans but only recently enjoyed blockbuster, box-office success, says he’s never forgotten the words of a wise man he worked with on 1995’s Don Juan DeMarco. ‘I can hear Marlon’s [Brando] words reverberating. One time he said to me, ‘How many films do you do a year?’  Depp recalls.

And I said, ‘I don’t know. Two or three.’ And he said, ‘You gotta watch yourself.’ I said, ‘Why’s that?’ And he said, ‘We only have so many faces in our pockets.’ And as you get to a certain point, and you’ve played different characters, you think, God, he really was right.”


This is true in the corporate world as well. There are only so many hours in the day. There are only so many calls you can make, emails you can send, projects you can manage. And if you start out at a new job or with a new client being the ultimate yes person, you’re truly painting yourself into a corner.

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