Do you have a pressing career question where you could use a bit of expert help? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Today’s expert is Sarina Virk Torrendell, a career development & leadership coach for Millennials and the host of the Career Memos Podcast.
“I'm so grateful for my company's flexible WFH policy since the start of the pandemic, but recently, my boss has really been overstepping workplace boundaries—texting me at midnight, Facetiming me in her bathrobe, you name it! How do I tell her I'm not comfortable without compromising all the stuff I do like?”
Workplace boundaries were already difficult to navigate pre-pandemic, but this past year, they’ve pretty much gone out the window. There's nothing more annoying than getting late-night texts from your boss (I've been there!) and feeling the need to respond right away. As for your boss FaceTiming you in her bathrobe—that's a new one for me. Fortunately, there are ways you can put boundaries in place, even without having that oh-so-very-awkward conversation.
1. Be clear about what boundaries mean to you.
It's easy to say your boss or colleague is overstepping outside of the workplace, but your actions might be enabling their behavior. When your boss texts you at midnight, do you respond right away? If your answer is yes, take a moment to think. What would happen if you didn't respond until 9 a.m. the next day? When you're the ambitious, go-getter type, it's easy to get sucked in and respond immediately. But unless the question or task is super-urgent, you don't need to react or drop everything to get it done. When you start making yourself readily available at all hours of the day, you're welcoming that communication.
2. Have the conversation.
There's a good chance your boss isn't a mind reader, so unless you speak up, she'll never know her late-night texting is bothering you. Give your boss the benefit of the doubt and express how you're feeling. Chances are, she'll be pretty reasonable. If not, that's a topic for another time. (Hint: a red flag that it might be time to leave.) Everything starts to blend when you're working from home, so she might not even realize how ridiculous it is to FaceTime with her direct report in her bathrobe. She could also be in such a daze due to the stress and craziness from the pandemic that perhaps she doesn't realize she's texting you at all hours of the night. Bottom line, if you're unhappy, address it. Try saying something along the lines of, "I'm grateful for the company's WFH policy, but it would be great if we could communicate during normal working hours. That way, I have some balance so that I can focus on achieving the best results.”
3. Stand by your boundaries.
If you're still receiving late texts because your boss didn't get the memo, don't respond until the next day. If a colleague asks you to work on something minutes before you're about to meet a friend for dinner, don't respond! Or, kindly tell them you'll get to it in the morning. If the people you work with go on and on about working all weekend, don't let it get to you. Being a hard worker doesn't mean you're constantly on-call and putting in extra hours. Try to focus on the results and the skill set you bring to the table. You were hired for that reason, after all. And everyone deserves (aka needs) to have a life outside of their job.