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Use Your Values to Draw Healthy Boundaries in the Workplace

It can be difficult to find the sweet spot between being accommodating and bending your boundaries too much in the workplace. During the New Supervisors in Gov Virtual Networking Event, “How to Set Boundaries for Yourself and Your Team,” on Jan. 30, U.S. Federal Government employee Sarah Moffat shared insight on how to respectfully, but firmly, draw lines between your personal and professional lives. 

During the session, Moffat acknowledged that workplace balance isn’t realistic – instead, she subscribes to workplace harmony. Comparing life to a symphony, she pointed out how, like music, you go through periods of intensity and quiet, with times you are overwhelmed and periods of calm. If employees work together, they can harmonize, compensating for and respecting each person’s personal needs to make the team an overall success. 

To harmonize, Moffat said clear communication is the key.  

“I know that can be a challenge, but it’s like exercise – the more you do it, the better your muscle memory is and the less it hurts,” she said, and followed up that thought with what she called the one thing that she hopes attendees would take away with them: 

“Your boundaries should be tied to your values,” said Moffat. “If your value is family first, and something is not aligning with that, it makes it easier to hold the line and say no.” 

She recommended delving into and listing out five to seven values that you hold dear, identifying what is meaningful to you. Once you have that list, you can see how your values apply to each scenario that comes up and determine if it’s worth flexing your boundary or if you should stay firm. Once you have that list, now you can see whether your boundaries map back to your values. Where are you compromising your values and where can you be more lenient?  

Moffat added that she knows that not every workplace cares about an employee’s values or boundaries, but as a new supervisor, you can still carve out a healthy space for your direct reports, modeling the behavior you want to see.   

“Show your team that you have boundaries, and it’s OK for them to have some as well,” she said.   

As she wrapped up with the session, Moffat gave an example of how she was recently on a call an hour after she was supposed to end her workday, and gently, but firmly, told the other participants that she needed their final thoughts and would be available the next day for follow-up.  

“We are people, and as people, we have needs,” Moffat said. “Learn to be OK with expressing your personal needs and where your limits are.” 

If you’d like to learn more about setting boundaries, check out the resources below, and don’t forget to sign up for our next New Supervisors in Gov Virtual Networking Event, “Change Management 101 – How to Prepare Your Team for Change Management.” 

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