View profile

My Recent Boundaries Mistake

My Recent Boundaries Mistake
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about something lately.
More specifically, what are they exactly, and why do they matter?
And after all this thinking, I changed my mind about boundaries, especially how they relate to managing others.
I realized I had been making a huge mistake in my application of boundaries in the workplace.
And what I decided in response has been transformative.
It’s starting to change my life for the better–and changing my mental health in particular.

Management Boundaries - What I First Thought
I’m a bit embarrassed to write this now, but what I first thought about boundaries is that it’s always right to be human-first and meet people where they are.
How could that go wrong? I used to think.
Now, after living through a few somewhat awkward conversations, I know how it can go wrong.
Because having open boundaries, or very few boundaries, might work when the relationship is friend-to-friend or family-member-to-family-member.
When both people value openness and sharing, there are no issues.
And it really doesn’t matter much when you and another person aren’t bound together by goals and objectives.
Going wherever the emotions take you, and following one another’s lead and meeting each others’ cues in the moment, is something that is completely fulfilling in a non-work relationship.
But with a work relationship, certain boundaries must be formed.
I learned the hard way, after being the peacemaker and the relationship-builder in most work conversations, that my social-worker mindset does not always apply to management situations.
In fact, there are times when it’s counterproductive to try to manage as a social worker who lives by the code of ethics of full and complete empowerment and self-determination.
Because, recently, I’ve had a number of situations where I had to draw firm lines with others on my team. Where other people were simply not allowed to do whatever they wanted to.
Normally, this kind of action wasn’t a problem for me.
But here’s the big issue: because a few of my work relationships have focused too much recently on emotional connection and shared meaning, my tough talk of objectives and non-negotiables came across as too harsh, surprising, and unwelcome.
I knew something had to change because it was getting downright uncomfortable.
Boundaries for Managing Others and Beyond
This, my friends, is a boundary.
This, my friends, is a boundary.
If you’re dealing with an issue where your currently boundary set-up isn’t working for you, I want you to heed my advice, the advice I gathered after eating humble pie.
You see, I thought I was managing well–and I was, for certain situations…
But for others?
My lack of appropriate boundaries muddied the waters–and the productive nature of the relationships.
This is what I did to improve my management boundaries and learn more about good boundaries in general.
1. I asked multiple people for feedback.
And I was sincere in wanting it. A person can smell from a mile a way an insincere request for feedback. So I repeated my request, and I maintained open body language. And then I listened. No request for feedback seems sincere when a person is simply waiting for another person to stop talking only so that he can answer with a perfectly timed rebuttal.
2. I looked for patterns.
One piece of feedback aimed at helping you improve your functioning in a certain situation does not a pattern make! It’s just an anecdote, and the plural of anecdote is not evidence.
But, once the patterns start to emerge, it’s time to take it seriously. And what I heard was this:
“I appreciate that you care. I really do. But sometimes the focus is too much on my personal life, and I just want to focus on work.”
“It’s good I can share with you, but we don’t need to start a conversation with asking about a problem I’ve brought up in the past.”
“Sometimes, I just like work because it helps me feel good about how I’m doing in life, and just focusing on work successes naturally helps me feel better elsewhere.”
I was off track with a number of direct reports.
I don’t like the taste of humble pie at times, but it sure can be helpful to eat it.
What the Ego Thinks of Boundaries
This turned out to be a case of me against my ego.
My ego wanted me to believe I was doing an excellent job, ALL of the time.
But reality was telling me that I wasn’t.
You might find this to be true for you as well.
How many times has your ego tried to warn you that changing your mind is a sign of weakness?
I’m guilty of this.
But you know what.
People who can take in information to improve their understanding of a situation should be admired.
That’s what growing up and getting better is all about.
I’m about a week in to my new boundaries approach at work.
The personal conversations are still there, but I’m not seeking them out as much.
And I feel way mentally and emotionally drained as a result.
I now have a better understanding of boundaries when it comes to management in particular–and boundaries as tools for good mental health in general.
My ego doesn’t love it.
But I do.
Have you ever changed your mind about boundaries? Have you ever changed your mind about a mental health issue, period? Reply and let me know! I love hearing from you.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. Sorry for sending this one out a bit later in the day. I’ve partnered with Himalaya to release a 7-part audio series featuring authentic mental health stories, and I’ve been hard at work wrapping them up. They are ALMOST done. I can’t wait to share them with you later in the month to honor Mental Health Awareness Month.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Jordan Brown - Mental Health Newsletter Writer, Poet, Social Worker, and Advocate

Authentic, actionable mental health. Improve how you feel. The Mental Health Update Mental Health Newsletter provides you with authentic mental health articles that make mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and OCD meaningful AND accessible.

This is different from typical mental health newsletters and articles about mental health challenges.

It's not just an Anxiety Email Newsletter or a Depression Email Newsletter - It's two weekly articles packed with timeless mental health wisdom and inspiration to start your day in a thoughtful, uplifting way.

I was tired of other "mental health care" newsletters blasting out generic lists of links and depression articles.

And I was especially tired of them not focusing on the everyday reality of mental health issues.

So I decided to come up with something I wanted to read.

This health newsletter is like a caring friend that just wants you to feel better.

Mental health awareness articles don't need to be all doom and gloom and filled with jargon.

With The Mental Health Update, you'll get practical mental health information, tips, and new ways to view the world. Especially now, with people reeling from the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic, we need trusted voices telling it like it is.

We discuss topics like anxiety, depression, OCD, the mental health to mental illness spectrum, social and communication skills, and much, much more.

This is what a few subscribers had to say about The Mental Health Update:

"If you haven't yet subscribed to Jordan's mental health newsletter, you absolutely should. It's chock full of good stuff to read and will help make your day better. Not unlike a daily vitamin for your mental health and soul..." - JR

"Encouragement from someone who has “been there” when it comes to mental health struggles. Comes in the form of stories and simple, actionable tips for reframing and working with - and through - your issues. One of the few newsletters that has survived my ruthless inbox decluttering sprees. Highly recommended!" - Kelila

"Jordan's mental health update is a welcomed email in my inbox. It often provides me with a chance to break from the mundane tasks of working in an office and take a moment for myself to hear his thoughtful and well put together thoughts on many aspects of mental health. As someone who works in the psychology field it's often a nice reminder and way of grounding myself to all the great work that's going on and the journey we all must take in supporting mental health. Thank you Jordan!" - Rob

I take my no-spam policy very seriously. I consider it a mental health obligation to not abuse your trust or raise your anxiety.

Newsletter articles sent on Tuesday and Thursday.

In order to unsubscribe, click here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Powered by Revue
Missoula, MT