iNews, September 20th 2022: How to set boundaries at work and avoid burnout: Say no and don’t people-please.
Have you ever ended up overworking or taking on tasks outside your role? iNews spoke to Victoria McLean, founder & CEO of award-winning career consultancy City CV, to find out more…
Below is a short excerpt.
Learn to say ‘no’
An important tool in being able to realistically turn down work when it is presented is learning to say no. Victoria McLean, chief executive of career consultants City CV, says it is “important to learn how to say no in a way that doesn’t antagonise”. “As long as you have a good reason to say no, be confident and firm in your reasoning,” she adds.
McLean says it is okay to say no when a request “doesn’t fit business or team priorities” and you can also learn to say no on the behalf of other people.
When starting a new job or when looking to be promoted, it is typical to overwork simply because you’re keen to please, but this can lead to people taking advantage or simply adjusting long-term to overworking. Similarly, staff are vulnerable to this overworking and lack of boundaries when they are worried there will be a “black mark” against them for not doing so.
Amy Wilkinson, a workplace resilience expert, says there are ways to push back against an excessive workload without appearing negative. She said: “We are increasingly expected to take on more and more, so it is important to learn how to push back in a positive manner that isn’t career limiting.” She suggests asking which tasks you should prioritise as a good way of going about it.
Although McLean warns that if you work somewhere where there is any chance a “black mark” could be put against your name because you won’t overwork, then “there may be a business culture issue rather than a setting boundaries issue”.
Communicating honestly, clearly and in a timely manner is paramount when it comes to setting boundaries, explains McLean. “How many times have you said ‘no worries’ when it is in fact incredibly worrying?” she asks.
“Let’s say you get an email asking you to take something else on. You have no capacity for this, but instead of getting back to them straight away and telling them that, you ignore the email for a little bit out of sheer anxiety or resentment, and by the time you reply you feel like it’s too late to be honest or that there will be tension if you don’t say yes.
“If you’d have responded straight away with your schedule and explained that you just don’t have the capacity, your colleague would be able to reassess their situation in plenty of time and maybe even find someone else with less to do.”
Remember why you are setting boundaries
Throughout the process, remind yourself of your reasons for setting boundaries, advises McLean. Remembering the importance of achieving a good work/life balance, spending time with your family, or looking after your mental health or just having time to spend on other things you are passionate about should help you set boundaries and stick to them.
“Stick to the boundaries,” she says. “Burnout saps your energy, increases negative feelings and reduces productivity. You’ll be so much better at work, at home and in yourself when you stick to the established boundaries.”