Good Witch vs Bad Witch:The Fine Art of Setting Boundaries


Communication is important to just about every aspect of my job as a public affairs specialist. I eat it, breathe it and sleep it. Yet, it’s always something I’m constantly fine-tuning. How should I say this? What’s the best way to relay this message? Are we effectively reaching our audience?

Wherever I go, I always try be aware of my attitude, tone and body language when communicating with co-workers, peers, supervisors, friends and even strangers. That’s pretty much everyone I encounter on a daily basis.  Truthfully, some days are better than others.

This definitely comes into play when I’m setting boundaries, particularly in the workplace. I consider myself pretty easygoing. Unless someone is dead or dying, I try not to freak out (at least not in public). A few deep breathes and lots of continuous prayer help keep me on course.

There’s also quote by motivational speaker, author and life coach Tony Gaskins that I keep handy. It reads -“You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop and what you reinforce.”

When it comes to setting boundaries, what are we allowing, stopping and reinforcing on our jobs and in our homes?

The way we carry ourselves, treat others, perform our duties and handle problems says a lot about us to those we work, live and serve with. I’ve long ascribed to the belief that one catches more flies with honey than vinegar. However, there are also times when you need to ditch the flies and go straight killer bee or “Bad Witch” mode (think The Wizard of Oz).

While, I enjoy being the “Good Witch,” I know that sometimes the “nice” approach doesn’t always work. In those instances, the “Bad Witch,” is more than willing to come out to ensure boundaries are not breached. As a result, I no longer suffer from the “disease to please.”

Here are a few effective tips to help you set your own boundaries

  • Figure out what your boundaries are- If YOU don’t know, then good luck getting other people to recognize or respect them. What is it personally and professionally that you need to function at your best and why? What are the things that support your success, while helping you also be the best team player possible?
  • Watch your language – Be clear, be direct, be tactful and be confident when discussing your boundaries. Say what you mean and mean what you say, whether you’re talking to a supervisor or a client. You may even need to repeat yourself a few times until they get it. Also, please keep in mind that you shouldn’t have to curse out or demean anyone to state your boundaries. Keep it classy!
  •  Identify obstacles – What is it that’s really causing you to be hesitant about setting boundaries? Sometimes it can be fear, guilt, need for approval or intimidation hindering us from voicing our needs. Once you recognize the root cause, seek out a positive source of support to help you effectively work through these issues (trusted friends, clergy, family members, mentors etc.).
  • Self-maintenance – Sometimes in the pursuit of serving others, we place ourselves and our needs last. I’ve learned through painful personal experience that this is completely backwards. It also cheats us and our organization in the long-run. There are certain things that we need that are non-negotiable for our overall well-being. Don’t allow guilt, intimidation or fear of being the “Bad Witch” discourage you from taking care of those needs. If you don’t do it … then who will?

Whether you go the “Good Witch” or “Bad Witch” route, set your boundaries and honor them. Once you do … only then will others learn how to follow suit.

Dijon N. Rolle is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply