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.