Nov 16, 2018
Episode 37 of The
Teaching Space Podcast explores why establishing boundaries with
colleagues is important and essential within working
In the last episode we explored setting boundaries with
learners. I explained:
I like to think of boundaries as positive limits. They
aren’t huge walls with barbed wire on the top. They are a
protective measures. Boundaries can relate relationships, physical
elements and emotions.
I found two great articles on this topic to help me prepare for
this episode. You can find links to them in the show notes.
Why Are Boundaries Important?
Having boundaries in place allows you to:
- Navigate complex colleague relationships.
- Protect yourself, specifically your role and
- Preserve your mental health and emotional energy.
- Uphold your own standards and values.
- Be productive.
Examples of Personal Workplace Boundaries
Some examples include:
- Job description: what you are required to do.
- Interpersonal: how you behave with others.
- Personal: your work/life balance.
Why This Topic?
This is a huge topic. It is impossible to cover all aspects of
setting boundaries with colleagues in a short episode.
The purpose of this episode is simply to make you think. If you
pick one thing from the episode to act on, then that is
How to Set Boundaries With Colleagues
Here are suggestions for establishing and maintaining healthy
boundaries at work:
- Decide on your boundaries (think about those which relate to
your job role and responsibilities, your relationships with
colleagues, your general behaviour and your work/life
- Document those boundaries in your journal and revisit them
- Practice explaining your boundaries to people in a firm but
- Know that colleagues at all levels will cross your boundaries
at some point.
- Use the win-win approach (this also works well as a behaviour
management strategy with learners). Example: if a colleague asks
“do you have a minute to talk about something?” and you are in a
state of flow with marking, offer a response that offers two wins.
“I’d love to talk to you. I can speak to you at 10am when I am on
my break or at 4pm when I have finished teaching. What would you
- List people who drain your energy and don’t respect your
boundaries. Where possible, have as little to do with them as you
- When boundaries are crossed, try to avoid a personal or
emotional response. For example, if your manager makes an
unreasonable request, rather than breaking down and saying “I am so
stressed - I can’t cope with this on top of the million other
things I have to do today”, explain “If I do this now then X will
not get completed - what is your preference?”
- Learn to say no - future episode.
- Physical boundaries: I am easily distracted by noise and find
it hard to get into a state of flow, so by using noise cancelling
headphones I send a message to my colleagues I should only be
interrupted if it is urgent. I have explained this to them before,
and have not just assumed they will understand!
- Personal boundaries: To maintain work/life balance I do not
check my emails at the weekend and do not have my emails on my
personal mobile device. My colleagues know this. My office hours
are also clearly communicated on my email auto-signature and out of
- Professional boundaries: I have a specific social media
presence related to teaching theteachingspace on Instagram and
martineguernsey on Twitter). Both are professional, I keep my
personal life, religious and political views to myself. My Facebook
profile is locked down, although I am friends with some colleagues.
I am careful what I post.
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